"Never Knowingly Undersold."
Number of staff
About John Lewis
John Lewis is the darling of the British retail industry and it has cemented its position in the hearts of the public with its much-lauded TV advertising.
The department store chain is now best known for its Christmas campaigns, which have become a national media event in their own right, but it was not a Christmas ad that kick-started the the brand’s recent stratospheric rise.
The retailer’s renaissance arrived in the spring of 2010, as it breathed new life into an 80-year-old ‘Never knowingly undersold’ pledge with its ‘Always a woman’ TV spot.
In a beautifully shot execution, John Lewis subtly told how it had played a part in a woman's life from infancy to her becoming a grandmother.
Accusations that the ad bore a striking resemblance to another by Italian lingerie brand Calzedonia failed to derail the rising stars of marketing chief Craig Inglis and ad agency Adam & Eve.
Their partnership went from strength to strength as they have gone on to recreate the ‘Always a woman’ magic in John Lewis’ Christmas ads, year after year.
Despite the ridiculously high expectations John Lewis has created for itself, it has continued to deliver. Its most recent Christmas ad - ‘Man on the Moon’ - once again had the nation in floods of tears.
John Lewis founded the department store over 150 years ago and, on his father’s death in 1929, John Spedan Lewis formed the company’s famous partnership model, which involves distributing profits among employees.
Decades after its entrepreneurial and radical beginnings, Inglis says the company has “avoided inertia by never really being happy to settle for what we've achieved”.
The retailer recently restructured its executive team to better serve the modern shopper. Inglis was promoted from marketing director to the role of customer director, elevating him to the board at the same time. He is now responsible for the end-to-end customer experience, a development that is being replicated across many other retailers.
John Lewis and sister retailer Waitrose have struggled to maintain previous levels of sales and profit growth in an increasingly cut-throat market. Rivals are catching up with John Lewis’ celebrated omnichannel offering.
Any move by John Lewis is watched closely by its industry peers. The retailer’s potentially unpopular, but brave, decision to begin charging for click-and-collect orders under £30 was emulated by Tesco, while the views of managing director Andy Street on industry matters such as Black Friday carry huge weight.
The significant brand-equity John Lewis has built is enabling it to expand into new categories and markets. It recently launched a major ad push around wellbeing and is opening its first stores in Europe.
The brand evidently has some strong marketing talent beyond Inglis alone, as was demonstrated by last year’s imaginative campaign for its insurance offer, which was led by Margaret Burke, John Lewis’ head of marketing for financial services. The ‘Tiny Dancer’ ad, which featured a young girl almost smashing household objects as she danced around the house, was undoubtedly one of the marketing highlights of last year.
With a depth of talent and other exciting innovations such as the JLAB incubator scheme the future looks set to remain bright for John Lewis.
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