Debenhams inspired by Macy’s as it talks up its ‘returning confidence’ this Christmas

While most retailers launch completely new marketing campaigns each Christmas, Debenhams is opting for a different approach as it returns with its 2014 ‘Found It’ message once again for Christmas 2015.

Whereas last year’s campaign featured a showpiece festive TV ad, this year the department store brand will launch five separate shorter TV ads instead. Each ad (which will all launch in the first week of November) will focus on a different shopper group, with taglines such as ‘found it for the fashionista’ and ‘found it for the littlest one’.

“In the US, Macy’s has been running its successful Believe campaign since 2003 and just evolve it slightly every year,” Debenhams’ marketing director Richard Cristofoli told Marketing Week.

“We feel that you don’t have to completely reinvent yourself every single Christmas. The ‘Found It’ message is all about making it easier to associate a gift with an individual and to communicate how much we understand our customers. We’ve taken that one step further this year with a more personalised narrative.”

The new approach has “doubled the number of OTS opportunities” despite ad spend staying at the same level, according to Cristofoli.

Returning confidence

Christmas 2014 was responsible for putting a lot of confidence back into Debenhams, Cristofoli explained.

Last year, the department store brand saw like-for-like sales rise 4.9% over the festive period while it recorded the best performance in its history for the seven days in the run up to 25 December. “That performance gave us real momentum again.”

And having seen its share price fall around 30% since November 2012, Debenhams earlier this month reported a pre-tax profit rise of 3% to £113.5m in its full year results to August 2015 – a return to growth for the first time since 2011.

However, despite this progress, shareholders reportedly remain anxious while current boss Michael Sharp recently announced he will be stepping down “sometime in 2016” after 25 years at the company.

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But Cristofoli denies there is a crisis internally and says the retailer is improving across all its channels.

Over the last 18 months, for example, Debenhams has sought to introduce more brands, improve its online delivery service, and cut back on promotions.

Cristofoli highlighted how Debenhams now offers next day delivery on orders before midnight, an improvement of a 10pm deadline previously, and has taken 42 days out of its promotions calendar.

“Whereas before we pulled the promotional and pricing lever, we’ve now realised that telling the brand story in a more emotional way is the most important thing,” he added.

Modernising Debenhams

This Christmas, Debenhams has also upped the £2m investment it made last year to improve in-store Christmas decorations and layouts in a bid to inject more theatre.

It is also turning its 180 personal shoppers into ‘gift finders’. Using an online booking system customers will be able to make appointments and delegate their gift shopping duties.

This multichannel strategy extends online, with Debenhams modernising its approach with a wider adoption of channels such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For the latter, it recently allowed fashion designer Savannah Miller to take over its Instagram account for a day to promote her new Nine collection while last year’s #foundit hashtag trended in the number one spot on Twitter in the UK.

“If people are taking the time to come into our stores, they want to be rewarded and experience something that is completely different to sitting at home on an iPad,” added Cristofoli. “Equally online must be a unique proposition too.” He pointed to an online competition for Christmas 2015 where customers who Instagram photos of their ‘perfect gifts’ can win a £1,000 gift card and appear on the cover of the Metro newspaper.

Cristofoli concluded: “Our improvements are not finished by any means and you don’t rebuild your reputation overnight but we are making big inroads.

“We have a wider selection of products than any of our rivals and you’ll see that communicated in more interesting ways moving forward. Christmas is important, sure, but after last year we have a lot of confidence in ‘Found It’ and the changes we are making to the brand.”

Hear all about the importance of retail brands at this year’s Festival of Marketing. Taking place on 11 and 12 November there will be 12 stages and hundreds of speakers. Click here for information and to book tickets.

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