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Marketing Week (MW): Do you think marketing and brands affect popular culture?
Nathan Ansell (NA): Yes. There are certain brands that are influencers and I think M&S is one of those. M&S has a long history of shaping the way the British thinks about and consumes food. For example, we were the creators of the pre-packed sandwich in 1981 allowing customers to enjoy great quality food on the move. We also pioneered prepared meals, recognising the shift in family dynamics and increasingly busy working lives that meant scratch cooking wasn’t always possible.
MW: How has M&S has played a part in influencing the growing trend of people becoming foodies?
NA: One of the things we are proud of is the way we can make the latest food trends accessible to our customers. Our Food team relentlessly researches the up and coming restaurants, chefs and street food scenes right across the world. When we discover an exciting new trend we work out how we can scale it for our customers.
MW: Can brands encourage certain behaviour among people – or do they just cater to what people want now?
NA: Some brands encourage new behaviour more than others and I’d say M&S is a leadership brand. Innovation is at the heart of our food offer and we have a commitment to refresh 25 per cent of our range every year. Part of our role is to give people the familiar favourites we know they love but we also want to introduce them to new flavours, tastes and trends that they didn’t know they wanted.
MW: Is influence high on the agenda when it comes to how you use social media?
NA: We recognise the importance of social media. Food is a topic our fans can really engage with and has given us great opportunities to collaborate with our customers. For example, to celebrate the 21st birthday of our Percy Pig sweets we launched a new sweet mix combining Percy Pigs and his lemon-flavoured girlfriend Penny. We asked Facebook fans to chose the flavour of the sweets that would accompany them in the bag. We received more than a quarter of a million likes, as well as a true ‘customer generated’ product.