Battle of the Brands: Coles versus Woolworths

In this instalment of our regular ‘Battle of the Brands’ series from media intelligence provider Meltwater, David Hickey compares the social media activity and online media coverage of Coles and Woolworths in April and May 2015.DavidHickey headshot


Coles and Woolworths form a near duopoly of the supermarket industry with ~80% of the Australian market. Woolworths is still the largest supermarket chain with 933 stores operating across Australia, but Coles is not far behind, with 762 stores at present. In the face of fierce competition, including mounting pressure from discount supermarket Aldi, both companies have strived in recent years to win the battle for customers by enhancing their loyalty programs, and launching their own credit cards and frequent flyer points programs.

So how do Woolworths and Coles compare in terms of conversation volume, share of voice, sentiment and conversation themes on social media and online news?

Volume and share of voice

Woolworths generated more than double the social media conversations of Coles, and represented 60% of the global online news coverage during the analysis period (1 April to 31 May 2015). Twitter was the most popular social media channel for both brands, however Coles generated more mentions on review sites and forums.

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The sentiment for both brands was predominantly neutral on social media. However Woolworths has more negative conversations than positive conversations on social media, while Coles has slightly more positive social media sentiment than negative. The negative sentiment for both brands was usually around its stock or its stores:

In terms of online news, sentiment was mainly neutral for both brands. However both Woolworths and Coles have more negative online news than positive. A large portion of online news coverage was speculation about the futures of the stocks.

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Interestingly, many of the themes associated with Woolworths and Coles are unique to each, although many conversations mention both brands.


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In the Woolworths theme cloud, the words ‘anzac’, ‘crass’ and ‘debacle’, explain some of the negative attention it received on social media.

A total of 2,491 social media conversations took place around Woolworths’ “fresh in our memories” ANZAC day campaign.

‘Zoo’ was a prominent theme for both brands due to an online petition launched by activist Laura Pintur calling both companies to pull the men’s magazine Zoo Weekly off their shelves. The themes ‘coercing women’ and ‘#losetheladsmags’ found on Coles’ cloud also relate to this issue.

The themes ‘slave labour’, ‘union’, ‘lilydale’ and ‘chicken’ were also prominent and referred to allegations that both companies involve slave labour in their sale of Lilydale chicken products. Lilydale has refuted this:

Not surprisingly, competitor ‘Aldi’ was mentioned 865 times alongside both brands on social media.


Overall, Woolworths gained more interest and attention on social media and online news media than Coles in April and May, following its ANZAC day faux pas and ongoing pressures within the industry to decrease prices.

There is a huge opportunity for both brands to delve deeper into this media intelligence and extract some valuable insights that can help both brands nurture influencers and brand advocates, create cut-through messages that resonate with them, be more responsive to public criticisms, and revitalise their marketing and customer relations strategies to engage consumers more positively.


Disclaimer from contributor: While Meltwater endeavours to provide accurate, reliable and complete information, Meltwater makes no representations in relation to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this article for general information purposes. Meltwater makes no representations and, to the extent permitted by law, excludes all warranties in relation to the information contained in the article and is not liable for any losses, costs or expenses, resulting from any use or misuse of the article.