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Asda sets loose the dogs of war

In November 2009, Asda announced they were launching a dedicated Halal meat counter in a number of stores to replace their existing fresh meat offering. Whilst this initiative was well targeted at Halal meat consumers from local communities near the stores, there was a potential backlash from more mainstream meat shoppers. One of these communities was based in the Isle of Dogs, where there is a flagship Asda store.


Whilst they may have anticipated some resistance to the move, they could hardly have expected the strength of reaction it prompted, with an article in the Daily Express throwing the race issue centre stage.

Although the debate may have been kicked off in traditional media, it was immediately picked up online and quickly spread across websites, blogs, micro-blogs, forums and social networks. It also led to videos being posted online.

Using iCITE to track the online buzz, i to i research uncovered a picture that was far more complex than might have been expected from such a local initiative.

Political and religious interest was perhaps inevitable but the number and nature of other groups contributing to the debate was a surprise. So too was the geographical reach of the noise, which prompted significant reaction from as far afield as South Africa and Malaysia.

Careful analysis of the messaging helped provide not only a clear picture but also clear angles for how to manage any response to such unintended consequences.