American Apparel, M&S, Heineken: 5 things that mattered this week and why

From Amercian Apparel’s UK comeback to Heineken’s approach to craft and Mars putting more of a focus on diversity and inclusion, catch up with all the marketing news that mattered this week.

American Apparel arrives back in the UK with new brand focus

American Apparel is back on the UK retail scene, promising its days of semi-pornographic advertising are over as it looks to win over young shoppers with products and body positivity.

It’s a big task, given the LA-based brand had landed itself in hot water more than a handful of times for advertising that was deemed to sexualise children and normalise sexual predatory behaviour. But its now female-led marketing team, headed up by Sabina Weber, are determined to put the focus back on the product and take it back to what it was in its “hey day”.

It will go back to advocating LGBTQ and immigration rights, alongside promoting body positivity. Although, because it doesn’t want to “go completely crazy and cover up”, there will still be some flesh on show, a bit of side-boob here and there.

The challenges undoubtedly go beyond shifting brand perception, however.

For a start, the marketing budget is much smaller this time round, meaning American Apparel is relying on social media and user generated content to drive brand awareness.

Second: it’s launching without any high street stores, so it’s going to need to make sure it can create an online experience that rivals the likes of Asos, Boohoo and Misguided – all of which have a solid online (and offline) presence, are price competitive and have loyal audiences.

Ecommerce has changed significantly since American Apparel went into administration at the end of 2016, so it will need to make sure it has a point of difference in a growing and competitive market.

READ MORE: From Provocative to body positive: The American Apparel comeback

Mars gives diversity a more central role as it promotes Michelle Oliver

Pepsi and Dove can tell you that diversity is easy to get wrong but Mars has been managing to navigate the sensitive arena with success. This is largely down to Michelle Oliver who has been a champion of inclusivity across the brand in the UK, spearheading campaigns that carve out roles for unrepresented groups.

And those campaigns have not just been socially important but commercially successful too. The Maltesers campaign featuring disabled actors was its best for 10 years, delivering 8% sales growth and a 10% uplift in brand affinity.

Oliver’s promotion to global corporate brand and purpose director highlights the company’s commitment to push diversity within its marketing further and look to achieve the same success stateside. With Donald Trump in power and movements such as Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, there is arguably a bigger platform for conversations but equally more sensitivity, so Mars will have to be even more careful to get it right.

The promotion comers as Malteser launches two new adverts which feature queer and older women – two of the most underrepresented groups on television. Both ads are light hearted featuring honest discussions between the women, but thanks to focus groups, the conversations seem genuine. This kind of authentic marketing will serve Maltesers well and create brand loyalty

READ MORE: Mars promotes Michele Oliver to global brand purpose role

M&S’s new food marketing boss puts her stamp on its ads

M&S food marketing campaign

Marks & Spencer’s food marketing boss Sharry Cramond has wasted little time implementing her strategy for the business. She joined in January and took over full responsibility just last week after a reshuffle that saw the former marketing boss Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne booted out.

The new campaign focuses on provenance, highlighting the rigour in M&S’s supply chain and its high food standards. It still uses product porn – think oozing burgers and spitting steaks – but this time with a clear quality message.

Cramond believes provenance is a clear point of difference and she wants to shout louder about the things that make M&S different. That’s important as M&S looks for growth in a hugely competitive grocery market and one where the retailer is starting to struggle for growth. But many other supermarkets (namely Morrisons and Waitrose) have tried to get this message across but struggled in the delivery.

READ MORE: M&S’s food marketing director on making provenance a point of difference

Vodafone ramps up chatbot use to better serve customers online


Vodafone is banking on its chatbot TOBi to streamline the customer experience online.

It has been rapidly expanding the remit of TOBi over the past year so it can now offer customers advice on SIM-only price plans and help them complete the transaction, cutting out needless friction in the purchase journey as it does. It takes TOBi eight minutes to complete a SIM-only transaction, half the time it normally takes customers to make a purchase, as it can automatically point out and correct errors along the way. As a result conversion is two to three times that of the website.

This success is driving the business to roll out TOBi to assist customers when buying handsets with contracts and eventually offer upgrades to existing customers. This is where TOBi looks to be a real game changer for the business as it can make recommendations based on real customer data and present it in a far more useful way than it currently does.

“TOBi can articulate why we are recommending a particular product in far more compelling terms than the website – he can bring it to life,” Vodafone’s head of digital Jon Davies told Marketing Week.

Developments like this are helping Vodafone offer consumers a more personal and tailored service. Given it was voted the UK’s worst mobile provider by Which? this week, it’s a move that will likely be welcomed by customers.

READ MORE: Vodafone expands its use of chatbots as it looks to transform the digital experience

Heineken’s 180 degree strategy chance when it comes to craft

The rise of craft beer is something no brewer, not even Heineken can ignore. And so it is thinking about how it makes more of its smaller brands and introduces them to new markets.

But to do that it is throwing out its usual marketing playbook, instead adopting a “reverse” approach that will see it starting small with on-trade events and influencers before it works towards a bigger marketing campaign. The move is smart and highlights that Heineken appreciates the need to maintain authenticity and ensure consumers feel like they are “discovering” new brands.

Walter Drenth, senior global director international brands at Heineken, believes the rise in craft is due to “consumers moving towards more complex tastes” and sees traditional wine drinkers opting more for craft beers.

This move towards more complex tastes is part of the reason Heineken has launched its “international menu for growth” – which sees a push for eight brands to grow across more international markets. Amstel, Tiger, Desporados, Tecate, Red Stripe, Krusovice, Birra Moretti already represent 25% of Heinken’s global revenue and this push will see more marketing campaigns launch for the brands.

Brands like Mexican beer Tecate might move to Asian markets and so on, but it will be interesting to see how Heineken translates these brands across different markets. Any brand doing that needs to mindful of different expectation, replicating Tecate’s hyper-masculine ads in the UK, for example, probably wouldn’t go down all that well!

READ MORE: Heineken on why craft needs a ‘reverse’ marketing approach