Advertising Strategy

Marks and Spencer is an international multi-channel retailer that has been running for 129 years. It now operates in “over 50 territories worldwide” and employs “almost 82,000 people”, (Marks and Spencer plc, 2013). It’s dependence on its origin country; the UK is progressively being reduced due to its international focus. M&S’ UK turnover consists of 54% food and 46% general merchandise, including home ware, clothing, lingerie etc. It is currently growing its e-commerce and has expanded to the finance business with its M&S Bank branch.

Clothing has been lately an aspect of concern for the company, as sales of clothing have “slipped back for the ninth consecutive quarter”, (The Guardian, 2013). This has created a 9. 1% fall in half-year profit. For this reason, according to M&S Chief Executive, they are currently working on having “more innovation and choice than ever before”, (Bolland, 2013). However, according to retail analyst for the BBC, “The company is too risk averse and is unwilling to break the mould of its traditional ways of doing business”, (Conlumino, 2013).

The affordable fashion market in the UK has been described as “challenging” by Chief Executive Bolland. The fashion industry requires radical and innovative measures for success, which M&S has not dared to implement until now. Marks and Spencer’s fashion competition is becoming increasingly tough and aggressive. Retailer Next overtook M&S “as the UK’s biggest fashion retailer, in July 2012”, (Nairn, 2012).

Primark, its older rival has “an expected 5 billion pounds in clothing sales in 2014”, (The Guardian, 2013) this is a very close figure to M&S, with the potential possibility of performing above it. CAMPAIGN STRATEGY Marks and Spencer decided to adopt a fairytale theme for its Christmas 2013 campaign, focusing on its men and women ware collections as well a their lingerie collection playing a strong role. The adverts’ message claims to “Believe in Magic and Sparkle” and is based on a collection of fairytale stories including Alice in Wonderland, Red Riding Hood and The Wizard of Oz.

It encourages the audience to believe in the true Christmas spirits while taking them through a range of mind-blowing and fantasy settings that communicate the wide range of festive products available in the store. The advertising campaign was developed by the advertising agency RKCR/Y&R and also includes its Christmas party food range on the table set during the ‘Tea Party’. The company has tried to emphasize its quality by bringing to the advert loved fairy tales in a glamorous offset.

Christmas is a key selling season for M&S and thus their Executive Director of Marketing & Business Director claimed how they wanted to “recapture the magical essence of Christmas that customers tell is synonymous with M&S”, (Bousquet-Chavanne, 2013). In terms of the media channels, Marks and Spencer “is shifting its marketing approach to digital first”, (Vizard, 2013). This means that its strategy is launching campaigns online (through Youtube and its Website) before the use of Above The Line advertising (appearing in TW or print), this is a way to engage better with its consumers.

The campaign was first launched on the 4th November online and two days after the TV debut took place. The whole campaign had a very strong focus on engaging their target audience through social media, allowing shoppers to vote via Twitter and Facebook on a name for the highland terrier which features in its campaign. The main purpose of the campaign is to create awareness to their target audience and recover primarily in terms of clothing sales (increase them). Further objectives of the campaign are to attract its target market for a bigger range of their products.

By integrating food and general merchandise such as clothes and home ware in the advert, M&S aims to take advantage of cross-fertilising across food and clothing, as opposed to other retailers. Finally, the objective of moving to digital marketing is to become multichannel and prove its ecommerce savvy, as according to head of digital store development, “A “frightening number” of M&S customers still do not consider it as a multichannel retailer when they are shopping online”, (Zuurbier, 2013). In terms of its target audiences, Marks & Spencer has always aimed to target different age groups, using its advertisements to expand the generations.

By using well-known celebrities such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, David Gandy and Helena Bonham-Carter, it attracts customers from different segments, thus the main character Rosie can appeal to every woman, being neither too common nor too unattainable. However, although reaching out to an adult market segment with its range of winter clothes and festive feasts, M&S has widely aimed to target a younger market, thus engaging them in a wide Social Media campaign and well-known models. In terms of its reach, the M&S advert was broadcasted to a mass audience by using ABT advertising and OL advertising.

It is currently “wining the Christmas TV battle in terms of social, with 58. 8 million mentions on Twitter and 160,000 interactions on Facebook”, (Kindred, 2013). The campaign also created a #magicandsparkle hashtag, which allowed the brand to measure further the impact on social networks, with it being mentioned over 3,500 times. The advert is available internationally with 948. 533 views in Youtube and British TV cannels. The advert was first launched on TV 6th of November and is showing at a daily basis currently and until the end of the Christmas holidays (2 months approx).

The use of social media has been a key element in this last Marks & Spencer’s campaign for two main reasons. First of all, M&S are trying its best to understad consumers’ tastes and what they really want. Social media allows the company to ‘listen’ to what customers are saying in real time, thus having direct feedback and evaluation of their efforts immediately. Secondly, one of their main current objectives is to expand its online market share, thus they want to be perceived as a ‘multichannel’ retailer for online shopping.

According to the head of digital store development, “A frightening number” of regular customers do not consider it as a main online shopping point, and social media through the campaigns enables a connection between the consumers and M&S online platforms and therefore a direct link to purchase. The media channels have played a crucial role in transmiting their campaign to the desired public. The shift on its marketing approach, by launching campaigns online and on social media before print and TV enabled a closer relationship with the online consumers and a way of creating an experience and a feeling with the campaign.

The use of mass media by broadcasting the advert through british TV channels reaches most families that could potentially buy at the physical stores, whereas the online platforms reach audiences that could potentially make purchases at the E-store. The main aim of the campaign was to attract customers of all demographic groups and promote the new products that the company is offering. M&S image is in search of improved quality and consistency, and they wanted to transmit this to their audience.

However, the key issue in this campaign is whether it really communicated a clear ‘message’ and whether it is appeals to the correct target market. M&S, being a multi-department store with different product and option offerings, should thoroughly consider how the different product rages and collectoos are segmented. Usually, M&S was using its ads to span the generations, always including different groups. However, by trying to appear as a ‘improved quality’ brand and creating an advertising campaign featuring actual and trendy celebrities, there is a high risk of detering its core group of older and more simple shoppers.

In terms of attracting the younger audience, there is a high risk involved because this segment is yet not convinced about M&S products being for them, so the efforts to attract this dangerous and risky segment might loose focus on their main and loyal customers. A controversial question on this topic is whether the use of celebrities such as the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and David Gandy are associated with the image and main values of the brand. M&S is usually chosen by consumers who regard the brand as trustworthy, caring, straightforward and wise, being their old heritage a plus for consumer loyalty.

Although the celebrity endorsement can create a high amount of awareness and the models can appear as desirable, the brand is unnecessarily being elevated more than necessary, and going a complete different way to its all-time values. It is therefore questionable whether the ‘all things to all ages’ appeal is reflected in the advert. The AIDA model can be used to evaluate the four main points of an advertising campaign, regarding Awareness, Interest, Desire and Action.

The process is used by marketers to ensure that the desired result occurs from the campaign and M&S campaign follows all of the steps: Attention: By presenting the beautifully-made video with well-known celebrities it is catching the audience’s attention. The use of its fairytails theme can help purchases identidy the problem of needing the products offered by the firm to complete its christmas holidays. Interest: Once M&S had the prospects’ attention, the way to maintain the interest in the campaign was to keep the audiences engaged by creating social media activity and repeating the story in different media channels.

Desire: In the desire stage, the range of products showed in the advert are exposed on a way that are tempting and desired by the customers, so that they want to purchase de product. Action: The final step was to persuade the prospects to take immediate action. By using online platforms, creating a direct link to purchase and by limiting the range of products to the christmas season, M&S is creating sense of urgency by encouraging action within a specific time frame. This call to action is essential for the advert to influence the growth in sales.

Marks and Spencer has been suffering from decreasing sales throughout the last years, and instead of focusing on targeting a unclear market segment, it should promote its heritage and history, which is why it is stil considered to be number one multi-department store in the UK. The advertising campaign is beautifully made and has exquisite production values and gorgeous sets but it does not appeal to the right audience. There is an unclear linkage between the advertising and the heart of the brand as experienced by the stores.

The celebrities do not represent what the clients are neither what they want to be, as they are unreachable and extravagant. The magical essence of the advert and the ‘high glamour’ that it wants to communicate has nothing to do with the brand. M&S should focus on one emotional point that can reach its most loyal clients, whereas this advert looses focus by trying to appear and image that is nothing to do with the brand. Even though M&S has captured a lot of attention, the call to action remains unclear, although impact on sales cannot be analysed until after Christmas.