M&S spot gives the brand a 'youthful, adventurous edge'

Social video experts at Unruly review "Spend it well", the latest viral by Marks & Spencer.

The brand appears to be reaching beyond Britain’s borders to establish itself as a truly international entity.

8 / 10

For better or worse, brand associations can be hard to shake. And even with the brightest creatives and heftiest budgets at your disposal, "re-branding" is a tricky proposition.

Take Old Spice, which took the marvellous and surprising journey from a fusty old bathroom cabinet filler to one of the most daring and unusual marketers out there. That transition has been ongoing for the past decade, and has taken consistently ingenious campaigns to keep their new brand identity alive in consumers' minds.

A similar problem is currently faced by M&S. The British retail juggernaut has been facing an identity crisis for several years now, caught between upstart competitors in various retail sectors and a public image associated with being safe and rather traditional.

The first sign of the brand shaking off this reputation came last Christmas with its much-lauded "Mrs Claus" ad. With the help of Grey London, M&S’s latest campaign "Spend it well" continues this trend and waves goodbye to any trace of the dull with a flourish of bright colours, loud music and a message so #inspirational it could be the caption on an Instagram photo.

As the title suggests, the minute-long spot is all about getting bang for your buck. But this doesn’t simply come down to getting wholemeal bread rather than white, M&S is asking us to re-evaluate our entire lives and cast out whatever doesn’t fit our own standards of brilliance.

In the ad’s opening vignette, we see a young woman quit her thankless diner job before we are led on a whistlestop tour of time and energy well-spent and misspent. Revellers enjoy music at a open-air gig while family members favour their phones over dinner conversations. The impression is that you always have the choice to go for better.

The voiceover intones a list of life changes – "No more clothes that cost the Earth, no shoes that hurt your feet, no disappointing dinners" – and the spot’s propulsive energy makes it all just seem possible.

Besides the stylish, flashy imagery, there are quite a few giveaways that separate "Spend it well" from M&S’ usual image. Though the narrator speaks with an English accent, the spot feels reasonably American in style, cutting between vast deserts and crystal blue pools you’re unlikely to find between Land’s End and John O’Groats. With this, the brand appears to be reaching beyond Britain’s borders to establish itself as a truly international entity.

This is also reflected in the ad’s engagement with politics, touching on both climate change and protest movements. Though Pepsi recently learned you need to tread carefully around the latter, this subject matter certainly shows a more youthful, adventurous edge to M&S’ branding.

Of course, M&S would be nowhere without its reputation for foodstuffs – both opulent and everyday – and "Spend it well" doesn’t disappointment in this regard. In a separate spot, we see Venetian canals juxtaposed with rows of oil-drenched foccacia, while curling scoopfuls of ice cream turn into crashing waves. It’s creative work and manages to hold its own with the parent spot’s brash new branding. But when it all looks this delicious, who really cares?

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