How M&S plans to become ‘more relevant, more often’

M&S Food has a “busy summer” of marketing ahead of it, says marketing director Sharry Cramond, as the grocer doubles down on delivering healthy food at low prices.

M&SM&S is working to make its food and groceries offering “more relevant, more often” this year, as the business enters the second phase of its five-year transformation plan.

Ultimately, the grocer wants customers to re-evaluate its stores as somewhere they can go to for their bigger weekly shops. M&S is therefore making the case that it can offer both value and healthy choices, which will be especially important as the UK cost of living continues to rise.

“Every poll shows that customers absolutely love M&S. My job is to demonstrate that you can do that broader shop [with us],” M&S Food’s marketing director, Sharry Cramond, tells Marketing Week.

During the pandemic consumers did start doing broader shops more often with M&S, Cramond says, adding that the retailer is still seeing “bigger” baskets than in 2019. Its ‘Remarksable’ value range has been partly responsible for driving this trend.

“This focus on Remarksable value is going to be a key part of our marketing strategy this summer and beyond,” she says.

Today (27 May), M&S Food announced a new partnership with the home nations football teams – England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland – to encourage healthy eating. The partnership launches the retailer’s ‘Eat Well, Play Well’ campaign.

M&S Food marketing director Sharry Cramond pictured with England senior men’s manager Gareth Southgate, launching the new partnership.

The campaign will include initiatives where customers will be able to find out footballers’ favourite healthy recipes in-store, as well as eating plans and free fruit for kids. The partnership covers the men’s, women’s, youth and disability home nation teams.

“We decided to use the power of football and the influence of footballing icons to show how easy it is to make healthier choices for your family,” Cramond explains.

M&S’s own research shows that healthier eating is a key priority for UK consumers, even amid the cost-of-living crisis. With its ‘Fresh Market Specials’ range – which focuses on fresh quality products at everyday low prices – and its Remarksable value range, M&S Food can offer customers healthier choices without stretching their budgets, Cramond says.

M&S to tackle ‘growth barriers’ in home by extending ‘Remarksable’ campaign beyond food

Meanwhile, Cramond believes M&S’s “famous” dine-in offer represents another way in which the retailer can keep customers coming back to the shop as purse string tighten. Consumers know they can have a “restaurant-quality meal” for just £12 for two people in M&S cafes, she says. The retailer has expanded its dine-in proposition to appeal to families too, with a deal that feeds four for £15.

“If customers are deciding they want to have amazing restaurant quality food, but at a better value price, then they know they can go to M&S,” she explains.

Making M&S “more relevant, more often” will also be achieved through initiatives such as the retailer’s cooking show, ‘Cooking with the Stars’, Cramond says. The programme was launched in 2021 in partnership with ITV, and features celebrities cooking with M&S ingredients, demonstrating the breadth of its ranges. A second series is about to launch.

Loyalty proposition to be ‘key’

As M&S announced its full-year results earlier this week, outgoing CEO Steve Rowe outlined progress made by M&S over the first half of its transformation. The retailer believes it has “fixed the basics”, turning around declining brand relevance and profitability. Over the next two years, M&S aims to “shape the business” for sustainable growth.

As one example of how M&S has improved its proposition, Rowe noted that the business had previously “lost credibility” with its point-based loyalty system, but now claims 15 million members to its digital-first Sparks scheme, as well as 4 million app users.

Cramond agrees that the Sparks loyalty scheme has gone from “strength to strength”. A large campaign encouraging consumers to download the app –  launched earlier this year – was a “huge success”, she claims, as customers are keen to access deals quickly and easily on their phones.

The personalised offers delivered through the Sparks app will bolster the retailer’s appeal to shoppers during the cost of living crisis, she adds, stating that the loyalty scheme is “a really key part of our value proposition”.

Overall, the retailer has expressed confidence that it is “well-placed” to weather the cost-of-living crisis.

It’s my job to make sure that M&S doesn’t become the greatest story, never told.

Sharry Cramond, M&S Food

On this week’s results call, new co-CEO Stuart Machin identified the “most important priority” for the company now as building “on the strength of the M&S brand”.

Marketing will play a key role in delivering this aim, with a “busy summer” ahead for the team, Cramond says.

Indeed, the Eat Well Play Well campaign is the second launched by M&S this week. The retailer is also partnering with Bowel Cancer UK on an initiative that aims to raise awareness of the disease’s symptoms through signage on its toilet roll packs and in-store.

It was suggested by M&S colleague Cara Hoofe, who has personal experience of bowel cancer and works in the retailer’s Clothing and Home section.

“Our new CEO Stuart Machin passionately talks about protecting the magic of M&S and making sure that we’re telling its story,” Cramond concludes.

“It’s my job to make sure that M&S doesn’t become the greatest story, never told.”