M&S marketing cut a one-off as it plans to up spend this year

Marks & Spencer’s decision to cut its marketing spend last year was a one-off as it pulled back while it reviewed its marketing strategy, according to marketing director Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne.

Marks Spencer

In its full year results released this morning (20 May), M&S revealed that its marketing and related costs fell by 4.9 per cent in the 12 months to 29 March. Speaking to Marketing Week at a press conference in London, Bousquet-Chavanne said that decision came as he reviewed the efficiency and effectiveness of its marketing spend, particularly important given the big transformation M&S went through last year.

The retailer spent £150m updating its website to focus on content and providing inspiration to shoppers and has signed up 2.5m registered user since its relaunch in February, with 700,000 of those new customers. It also revamped its womenswear collection to focus on quality and style and cut down its product range by 10 per cent follow criticism that it was “overwhelming”.

The review was aimed at ensuring M&S’s marketing budget was correctly allocated between digital, store and more traditional media channels, as well as integrating digital into its core marketing strategy. The retailer also reviewed its media and planning and buying account, opting to move it from incumbent Walker Media to Mindshare.

Bousquet-Chavanne added: “We have been looking at the efficiency of the marketing plan. I am much clearer now on where the ROI is happening and where the money ought to be spent. Before we had no integration whatsoever between digital and the core and that is now fully integrated and we have a team that works together and better strategy planning capabilities with Mindshare on board. We are in a better place than we were 9 months ago.”

Digital marketing already accounts for a fifth of M&S’s spend and that is set to rise still further as the retailer adopts a 24/7 approach to creating content, says Bousquet-Chavanne. It has hired 6 new marketers with a background in publishing to help with that, as well as data and analytics specialists.

The changes are also happening in store, with Bousquet-Chavanne saying he wants more clarity in stores, a move that will be aided by the streamlining of brands in its general merchandise division. There are also plans to change in-store marketing more often to provide more inspiration and convince customers to visit an M&S store more often.

M&S will also continue with a strategy started at Christmas that saw the food and general merchandise businesses come together under one marketing message.

Bousquet-Chavanne said: “For me it is one brand. The synergy we got through the Christmas campaign was amazing, if you think about all those people who are buying food but not buying fashion or general merchandise. Marketing should be the same musical composition played by different instruments.

The marketing team is also working more closely with other areas of the business, including retail, selling and buying, to find efficiencies. The whole business moved to a 52-week marketing calendar last month to enable it to pick out important dates and events further in advance.

It hopes this will enable it to cut down on promotions, particularly in general merchandise, which negatively impacted its profit margins particularly over Christmas.

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