Gloom to boom: Debenhams hopes to reverse retail woes with £3m marketing push

Alongside a refreshed creative, the campaign includes a new partnership with GQ, a much bigger focus on influencers and a TV ad that has been produced in-house for the first time.

debenhams marketing campaignDebenhams wants to show people it is “coming out fighting” this autumn with the launch of a £3m marketing campaign it hopes will help to boost long-term consideration and love for the brand.

Alongside a refreshed creative, the campaign includes a new partnership with GQ, a much bigger focus on influencers and a TV ad that will debut on ITV on Thursday (26 September).

The marketing investment is “much bigger” than last year, Debenhams says, as it looks to raise national awareness through broadcast channels.

“We have to invest in marketing in order to grab our share of that market,” Debenhams’s director of marketing operations, Jane Exon, tells Marketing Week.

“The hard cost of investing in TV and outdoor are big. But the return on investment from TV continues to be exceptional. There’s a point where if you spend too little, you don’t get national awareness. That’s what it takes to create such a strong base and cut through.”

While the original campaign creative was by Mother London, this is the first first time Debenhams has produced a TV ad in-house, which Exon says it will do again if the results are good.

Business performances in terms of sales and profit remain Debenhams’s main KPI. But the retailer has just started working with a brand-tracking partner on a study to measure long-term consideration and brand love.

It has also been using Millward Brown’s eye-tracking technology to “tighten up” its creative executions, including the current campaign’s film and stills.

For the first time, Debenhams has made its menswear ranges central to the campaign, which is where it sees an opportunity to bring in new or lapsed customers.

Debenhams brings in restructuring expert as marketing boss departs

This includes a “significant step up” in investment in influencers, including former England footballer and Strictly Come Dancing contestant David James; Love Island contestant Curtis Pritchard; and former Welsh rugby star and World Cup commentator Jamie Roberts.

One thing that has remained the same, however, is the campaign strapline, Do a bit of Debenhams, which it introduced last year.

“We think it’s a lovely line that can become part of the vernacular,” Exon says. “But the tone and style of the strike-through creative, with its heightened reality colour, is very positive. We think, not only for Debenhams, but for consumers, being positive and confident is exactly where we want to be.”

Debenhams is currently undergoing a widespread restructure that will, as part of a CVA, see 50 of its 165 stores close and 1,200 staff lose their jobs. Three top executives have also departed the business, including marketing director Richard Cristofoli, who left earlier this month after eight years in the role.

Exon says Debenhams is still working through the new structure and hasn’t “landed on a final version” yet.