'We want consumers to reappraise M&S as a modern, relevant brand', says marketing chief

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, Marks & Spencer's marketing boss, says despite falling sales in the past half year, the new campaign would encourage consumers to reappraise the brand and bring the food and fashion ranges together on "one journey".

Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne: "I want to equalise the brand equity on both sides of the business"
Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne: "I want to equalise the brand equity on both sides of the business"

Speaking to Marketing at the retailer’s half year results presentation, Bousquet-Chavanne, the executive director of marketing and international, said the strategy behind the campaign was to ignite a "reappraisal of M&S as a modern, relevant and contemporary brand in the UK and beyond" and equalize the brand equity of both food and fashion.

We have a food business that is highly aspirational and a general merchandise business that was clearly less aspirational – it's time to equalize both sides

The retailer today posted group sales up at 0.5% year on year to £4.8bn. However, clothing, which has recently been the focus of a two pronged marketing campaign that kicked off in September, tumbled by 2.2% – the 13th consecutive quarter of sales decline for the category.

The retailer blamed unseasonable weather in September in particular for the fall in clothing sales, which it said wiped 2.5% off its general merchandise revenues during the month.

Bousquet-Chavanne said the new campaign, which M&S launched at the start of September, had had a positive impact on the sale of featured items and had also driven a reappraisal of M&S clothing to a more modern and stylish brand, part of the retailer’s long term strategy.

He said the marketing budget, which was up 19.4% the last quarter, would also increase over the course of the year following a slight dip in budget in 2013.

He said: "The campaign is made of multiple elements each way we approach it, and most fundamentally it’s about changing the brand perception overall and the brand reappraisal of M&S as a modern, relevant and contemporary brand in the UK and beyond."

The ambition and the purpose of this campaign – for the first time in 130 years – is to create a single journey as one single brand that has multiple aspects and stories to tell.

"A big part of the initial phase of the campaign in September was to join up food and fashion for the first time into a master brand approach with a single promise –the ‘only M&S’ promise."

He said some elements of the campaign were about measuring monthly sales impact, such as through the retailer’s recently launched cashmere, occasion wear and frozen food campaigns, which are "visibly moving the needle in the right direction".

However, the ‘Only M&S’ campaign was also about a long-term strategy to turn around the brand and communicate innovation in fashion, as well as food.

He said: "Consumer perception does not move overnight. We are on that journey, you have a food business that is highly aspirational and a general merchandise business that was clearly less aspirational.

"There’s been some great work done by my colleagues around design, style, and quality - renewing our credentials and establishing our fashion credentials much more powerfully.

"It’s time to do what I call the equalizer. I want to equalize the brand equity on both sides of the business. We have amazing products coming to market now on the fashion side that I think have nothing to envy from the innovation we have on the food side.

"That equalizer strategy will take time but there’s no reason why there should be a different brand perception in terms of innovation, inspiration and quality derivatives in general merchandise versus food."

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