Tesco has announced that its highly respected Chief Customer Officer Alessandra Bellini is to leave the retailer at the end of this month after almost seven years with the business. She will be a hard act to follow.

Bellini has been a hugely impactful figure in Tesco’s renaissance in recent years. Appointed by former CEO Dave Lewis, she, like him, joined the business from Unilever. On her watch, Tesco’s customer focus has been transformed. She is perhaps most associated with the long-running Food Love Stories campaign, a series of ads highlighting how ordinary families could make meals more interesting by including Tesco products. It played a pivotal role in boosting perceptions of food quality at Tesco after many years when Tesco’s focus on food had been diluted by a burgeoning non-food offer.

Bellini went on to lead the marketing for Tesco’s groundbreaking Clubcard Prices initiative, discounts for loyalty scheme members that have been widely emulated by competitors.

Also significant was the campaign to promote Aldi Price Match, a key mechanic, soon also adopted by Sainsbury’s to price match the discounter on many entry-level lines. This has helped Tesco to retain the loyalty of shoppers on tight budgets at a time of unprecedented expansion by discounters. Beyond this, Bellini has created memorable Christmas advertising and helped drive the retailer’s digital transformation, both of which have also helped to strengthen the Tesco brand.

Bellini’s departure leaves a big hole in Tesco’s leadership team that CEO Ken Murphy will be keen to fill quickly. In the short term, Tesco is understood to be carrying out a restructure of its customer and product teams led by chief commercial officer Ashwin Prasad to create a new ‘centre of excellence’.

The risk with merging the two teams is that the creative energy that has been a hallmark of the Bellini era will ebb and Tesco could lose its marketing mojo. The timing of Bellini’s departure at the start of the run-up to the key Christmas period also creates challenges. That said, Bellini leaves behind a strong team that is well-placed to ensure that the Tesco brand continues to connect with its broad customer base.

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