Boots has a long history on the high street as a provider of health and beauty products. But new CMO Pete Markey believes the time is right to “reintroduce” the brand to customers and highlight its relevance for the modern day, particularly now as consumers return to some semblance of pre-pandemic normality.
To kick start that ambition, Boots launched its cross-channel ‘Feel Good as New’ campaign in June, led by a 30-second television ad. That ad has now been shown as the most effective TV ad of the month in terms of public response, according to Kantar’s ‘The Works’ study.
Modernising a well-known and trusted brand that is embedded in the “fabric of Britain” is no doubt a challenging brief, Kantar’s head of creative excellence Lynne Deason tells Marketing Week.
“Step too far away from the essence of the brand and you either put off your core user base, or you risk people not recognising which brand the ad is for,” she explains.
However, Boots navigated the challenge well. Its ad scored within the top 20% of all UK ads for branding, according to Kantar’s data.
“Not only is the brand at the heart of the story, the narrative is also authentic to what Boots is famous for but has perhaps never articulated until now – helping Britain feel good as new,” Deason says.
We’re really pleased with where we’ve got to. More interest in the brand, more people interested in Boots, and it’s affecting short term sales as well.
Pete Markey, Boots
Voiced by actress Billie Piper, the spot opens with the suggestion that “today could be a good day for a little reinvention”. Edited to feature multiple shots on screen at once, the ad goes on to highlight the various ways in which consumers will be looking to switch up their lockdown routines as restrictions ease, from trying new make-up and dying their hair to looking after their health.
Various partner brands are shown on screen throughout the creative, including Drunk Elephant, Mac and Nars. The ad also makes a point to show off Boots’ new health hub, a service which connects consumers with relevant healthcare professionals.
The ad ends with the statement that Boots will be with consumers “every step, salsa and shimmy of the way, as we’ve done some reinventing ourselves”, before closing with the Feel Good as New tagline.
The ongoing campaign spans TV, video-on-demand, PR, digital out-of-home, radio, digital display, social media, email and in-store channels.
Speaking to Marketing Week at time of launch, Markey said: “Ultimately this is about driving a reappraisal of the brand through the lens of what we offer today, the role we play in people’s lives today, and the stronger role we can play in people’s lives in future – not just on the high street, but on our online business.”
Two months on, Markey says the early results of the campaign have been “positive” both in terms of long- and short-term metrics, reflecting its creative effectiveness.
As hoped, online and in-store sales have increased since the launch of the campaign, with “real growth” in the beauty and health categories most featured in the campaign, he tells Marketing Week. Traffic has increased to the Boots website, with a 700% increase in the number of visitors to the health hub alone.
Overall searches for Boots have also increased by 15%, he claims, while ad awareness is trending upwards. On top of that, the retailer has seen good market share movements in the highlighted categories, Markey says.
He adds that the campaign’s overall performance has been boosted by the brand’s partnership with Love Island this year, where Boots is seeing “amazing results” as the Feel Good partner of the reality TV show.
“Overall we’re really pleased with where we’ve got to,” he says. “More interest in the brand, more people interested in Boots, and it’s affecting short-term sales as well.”
Affinity, credibility, trend-setting
Produced in association with Marketing Week and the Advertising Association’s Trust Working Group, The Works study asks 750 consumers what they think of five of June’s top TV ads – 150 consumers per advert.
According to Deason, participants actively enjoyed seeing the range of products Boots offers to meet individual needs. One said: “I liked that it was showing lots of different people doing lots of different things to show what Boots sell”.
Deason explains: “Our brain is programmed to pay attention to things that are personally relevant and meaningful to us. What matters is how you bring these messages to life, giving them real human meaning in a way that is authentic to the brand.”
In trying to portray itself as a modern brand, Boots’ product range and delivery-focused message could have fallen “completely flat” and been “incredibly dull and boring”, Deason says. However, Feel Good as New succeeds in avoiding this pitfall.No more ‘good old Boots’: How new CMO Pete Markey plans to drive reappraisal
“The vibrancy and variety of the people who are shown doing interesting and quirky things, means the ad earns attention and conveys the message in a way that resonates.”
However, while the music and pace supports the “feeling of energy”, some viewers were left feeling “bedazzled” by the amount going on in the ad, she cautions.
Nevertheless, the ad performs in the top 20% of all ads in the UK for ‘meeting needs’ and for building love or affinity towards the brand. It is also in the top 40% for creating a sense that the brand is ‘setting trends’. According to Deason, these are hallmarks of a successful brand building ad.
The ad’s credibility score was also high, again in the top 20% of ads, boosted by Boots’ existing trust factor as a longstanding high street figure.
Meanwhile, using a neuroscientific ‘speed of response’ method, Kantar can pinpoint the words most likely to stay with people after watching the ad include ‘trustworthy’, ‘confident’, ‘modern’ and ‘expert’. ‘Traditional’ is one of the words less likely to stick, suggesting the ad successfully achieves Markey’s aim of driving a brand reappraisal.
Participants in the study also responded well to the diverse and inclusive nature of the ad, commenting on the inclusivity of older people and the diverse line-up of models. Three in four agree the ad represents a “progressive and modern” view of society, with one claiming the impression they had taken away is that Boots is “very now” and “inclusive of all groups”.
“The conclusion shouldn’t be that every ad needs to include a diverse set of people,” Deason warns. Previous Kantar studies have shown the presence of underrepresented groups doesn’t necessarily drive better performance.
However ads that portray underrepresented groups in a positive way are more effective in the short and the long term, she explains. In the case of Feel Good as New, the variety of people shown is pertinent to the story Boots is trying to tell about itself.
But while the TV spot is particularly effective among existing customers of the brand, its effect drops among other groups. “Other elements of the campaign will need to sway those lapsed users a bit more directly,” Deason advises.
She adds that the strength of the ad is in brand building, and while it is likely to support short-term sales, that task will primarily be the focus of the performance marketing and other tactical assets which sit within the campaign.
The concept for the campaign stemmed from regular insight work conducted throughout the year to keep an eye on the “pulse” of the nation during Covid. After a year of tracksuits, no make-up and limited exercise, Boots believes people are now ready to get back out there and begin experimenting with beauty, fashion and health once again.
But the campaign idea and execution has also been a product of having new energy in Boots’ marketing and agency teams, which Markey suggests is a key factor behind the success of the campaign thus far.
“To be honest we’ve been really lucky by having a really good fusion of existing people who have worked on Boots before, with a bunch of new energy,” he says.
Not only is Markey relatively new to the brand having only joined the business earlier this year, but in March ad network WPP hired a new executive creative director for its Boots account, Sara Rose.
“It’s been a really good mix of everyone wanting to be more ambitious for the brand [and] everyone wanting people to almost fall in love with Boots again,” Markey says. “It’s a great mix of the old and the new.”