Brand Audit: Marks & Spencer

Marks & Spencer has struggled with poor performance in its clothing division in the past year, but a decline in key brand perception metrics should be of equal concern.

M&S struggles to maintain brand metrics.

Earlier this month M&S outlined a new fashion strategy to reassert its quality positioning to kick start ailing clothing sales after seven consecutive quarters of falling sales. It also revealed a new brand positioning for its food business – which has outperformed its clothing business over the last 12 months.

The strategy will be led by former Debenhams and Jaeger boss Belinda Earl who was appointed as style director in June amid a restructure of the senior management team that saw John Dixon, who formerly headed up M&S’s food division, named director of general merchandise, including clothing.

In the past year, M&S’s brand metrics have fallen against every brand measure, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex.

M&S has historically enjoyed a strong reputation for quality and value but worryingly for the brand, its quality and value scores have suffered in the past year.

YouGov’s BrandIndex splits out Marks & Spencer into three different sector segments; general retail, high street fashion and as a supermarket. As a supermarket and general retailer, M&S’s scores consistently higher that its high street fashion business in terms of quality, demonstrating the challenge facing the business’s clothing division. In the fashion category it sits at 53.3 down from 59.8.

In the general retailer category, M&S’s overall index score, which takes into account how consumers rate the brand in terms of impression, quality, value, reputation, satisfaction and whether they would recommend it, peaked at 51.2 in January but currently sits at 43.3 – 13 points lower than a year ago.

Consumer perception of the value offered by M&S (in the general retail category) has suffered considerably over the last year. It currently sits at 27.8, slipping from 41.1 in May 2012.

The retailer’s buzz score, which measures the balance of positive and negative sentiment heard about a brand by consumers, has dropped significantly over the course of 12 months as it has faced negative media coverage around each of its quarterly financial updates. Its buzz score currently sits at 8.1, down from 25.3 a year ago. It reached a year-low of 1.5 on 4 August shortly after reporting its worst non-food performance in years – a 6.8 per cent drop for the three months to June 30.

M&S will be hoping its efforts to reiterate its quality credentials through its new fashion strategy led by Earl and new marketing direction under recently appointed marketing chief Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, will boost sales and reverse falling clothing sales at the same time as improving consumer perceptions of the retailer.

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