Q&A: Amanda Newman M&S Bank

Marketing Week talks to Amanda Newman, marketing director of Marks & Spencer Bank about the brand and marketing strategy for the soon-to-launch retail bank.

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Marketing Week: How are you going about communicating the rebrand from M&S Money to M&S Bank?

Amanda Newman: From a branding perspective moving to Bank is very straight forward. M&S has had financial services for more than for 25 years and M&S Bank researched very well with customers – there was unequivocal support for that. The rebrand will take effect from September and we’ll start talking to customers later this year.

The whole bank strategy is about our customers and is customer led. We have 2.7 million customers at M&S Money and have a direct communications relationship with them. We’re inviting them to apply to the account and talking about the the added value aspects.

There’s a whole host of communications channels we’ll use but it’s not about huge above the line activity now – it’s about our customers, and talking to them in the way that they’ve asked us to communicate with them.

MW: What is the future marketing plan to grow M&S Bank beyond existing customers.

AN: There are roles for different channels to play, whether its with existing customers or not. We will do an advertising campaign and there’s no channel we wouldn’t role out but first we want to to talk to our customers. M&S Bank and the premium current accounts have been built for the M&S customer, you get the value exchange if you’re an M&S customer so it’s not really for the mass market consumer or a wider appeal. At the moment its important for the brand, products and value exchange to be understood by our customers.

That said, anyone who wants to bank with M&S Bank can do, there’s no limit on the number of people that can. We will widen our product portfolio and look into mortgages but we want to get the banking operations launched first, the 24/7 call centre and online banking.

MW: What communications challenges are there for M&S as a bank?

For our demographic, online banking might need a bit more education and I want to be able to provide that. There will be videos online to help and advise and to give reassurance for our customers.

MW: How will you be using M&S marketing channels like M&S TV and mirroring the style and tone of M&S marketing?

AN: We work very closely with Steve Sharp (M&S marketing director), and the way we describe M&S Bank is distinctive but different [to M&S retail].

The emotional relationship that customers have is with the M&S brand and we talk to customers in very M&S language already at M&S Money. This is where the customer heartland is.

We’ve also worked with [designer] Terrence Conran to design the card, which is in keeping with the M&S family.

Our marketing can’t be exactly the same [as M&S] because we’re talking from a financial perspective not retailer one. People work very hard for their money and need to know it’s being looked after so our marketing can’t be too frivolous. We’re finding the balance between finance and retailer.

MW: M&S marketing has strong celebrity endorsement – is that appropriate for M&S Bank?

AN: For M&S Bank the identity of the bank needs to be first and foremost without any celebrity endorsement element. The bank is an identity in its own right – the visual identity is very strong and we need to get that across rather than be seen as one celebrity. We might do it in future, but a the moment we’re about trying to get the bank brand across to customers.

MW: Is there a risk of the mistrust in banking spreading from M&S Bank to the M&S retail brand?

AN: When we talk to M&S customers about bank branding, when you put M&S and bank together the M&S brand is so strong that the value is so much stronger that it.[the perception of banking].

Our positioning is to be transparent, it’s that level of transparency and trust that M&S brings to the party. Banking is a natural evolution for the M&S Money business – we’ve been offering credit cards for 27 years and through that with built up a lot of credibility.

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