John Lewis' marketer Craig Inglis on Bollywood dancing, tech incubators and Christmas planning in Spring

These past few weeks have given me lots of cause for reflection. Our annual results day is also the day on which we announce our Partnership bonus, which naturally instigates a contem­plative mood for many of us.

Craig Inglis, marketing director of John Lewis
Craig Inglis, marketing director of John Lewis

This is partly because, in this case, we’re reflecting on a great year. But also, for those of us who work here, it’s the most tangible evidence that John Lewis is not the same as other businesses.

I stood here on bonus morning at 9.25, just like Partners in other John Lewis buildings around the country. Venu Sharma, the head of our Indian sourcing office, was given the privilege of opening the envelope to reveal the bonus (15% this year). Her team had us all celebrating in style, with Indian music and Bollywood dancing. I don’t think I’ve experienced such a euphoric moment in any of the offices I’ve worked in over the years.

It may seem bizarre, as we’re just seeing the early signs of spring, but I’ve also started to turn my mind to Christmas.

I joined John Lewis on bonus day in 2008, so it marks my six-year anni­versary. While not every day has been quite so euphoric, this personal milestone got me reflecting on how much marketing has changed here over the past few years and how proud I am of what my team has achieved. There’s now a strong under­standing of our customers and the importance of our brand within the business, and mar­keting has played a central role in making that happen.

I’ve recently been planning for another, slightly more significant, anniversary that is coming up. It’s 150 years since our first shop on Oxford Street started trading. Over the summer, we’ll be mulling over our past and thinking about the future, with lots of special events and marketing activity going on.

My focus is on making sure that it doesn’t feel self-congratulatory and everything we do is relevant to our customers. So, while we’ll reflect on the special place John Lewis has undoubtedly had in people’s hearts over the past 150 years, we’ll do so in a way that, I hope, resonates with the broad church of customers we have today and wish to have in the future.

Christmas brief

It may seem bizarre, as we’re just seeing the early signs of spring, but I’ve also started to turn my mind to Christmas. We had our first meeting about it with our agency, Adam & Eve/DDB, a couple of weeks ago, and I’m already excited about the ideas. It’s a fantastically invigorating process to be part of and I never get bored with it. I’m always taken aback by the hundreds of ideas that are generated, with every creative team at the agency tackling our Christmas brief. Soon, we’ll have it down to the two or three front-runners and then the debates will really heat up. I can’t wait.

Our customers have been very much on my mind this month, too, as we’ve started rolling out a new seg­mentation of them to all 30,000 John Lewis Partners. It’s been more than a year in the making for my insight team and our agency, Truth, and it’s a truly inspiring and thought-provoking piece of work.

It’s already having a big impact in the business, with two significant develop­ments being generated from it. The first was My John Lewis, our customer rewards programme, which was launched in October and is proving extremely popular with customers.

Then there’s The Edit. One of the key pieces of insight was that our customers want to hear our point of view on products and trends, to be inspired more, and that while they know us for editing, we could do more to curate ideas for them. So The Edit was born and we’ve been advertising a new one in fashion and home each month for the past six months. In May we will take a big step by moving beyond advertising to start pulling The Edit together physically, in our shops and online. Taking this mark­eting concept into our shops is not straightforward, so it’s taking a lot of my time and energy, but I’m looking forward to it going live.

Mentoring has also been a big feature of my month. It’s my first year doing this for The Marketing Academy and I’ve been spending time with some of my mentees. It’s been great to be able to give something back and I’ve met some extraordinarily talented people – honestly, I think I’ve learned as much as they have. I’m also excited about our new technology incubator, JLAB, which we announced at the beginning of March, as I’m going to be on a board of mentors that will help the five start-ups we’re supporting.

JLAB feels very much in tune with our heritage. John Spedan Lewis, the founder of the Partnership, was a true entrepreneur and revolutionary who could not bear the social injustice he saw around him. He decided to do something about it by taking the courageous step of signing over his business to his employees to create the Partnership. I’m proud that, 150 years on from opening the doors of our first shop, so much of that spirit remains.