M&S ramps up brand character focus with collaboration push

Having recruited a marketer to manage its character brands in June, M&S is flexing mascots such as Percy Pig into new categories to broaden their appeal.

m&S food xmasMarks & Spencer is ramping up its bid to “supercharge” the growth of character brands like Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar by exploring collaborations and new revenue streams.

The retailer’s latest extension sees it partner with British nail polish brand Nails Inc on a pink Percy Pig scented nail polish duo. Announcing the tie-up on LinkedIn, M&S Food brand and marketing manager Sophie Jacobs describes it as a collaboration between “two iconic British brands”.

Positioned as a product for Percy “superfans”, M&S is encouraging consumers who buy the £15 set to engage with the official Percy Pig Instagram account, which boasts more than 91,000 followers.

Jacobs joined M&S in June from her role as senior brand manager for growth and innovation at Kraft Heinz. She is responsible for the retailer’s Percy Pig, Colin the Caterpillar, Collection, Gastropub and Our Best Ever ranges.

In January, M&S Food marketing director Sharry Cramond told Marketing Week the retailer was recruiting for a “creative, can-do marketing professional with the energy and passion for building brands” to fill what is now Jacobs’ role. While the vacancy was the result of an employee being promoted, the role was tasked with making M&S Food own brands bigger “than ever” in 2022.

Jacobs was hired specifically to build “compelling brand propositions, growth plans and guardrails” for the M&S character brands. The Nails Inc. tie-up came about after CEO and founder Thea Green messaged Jacobs with congratulations on her new role at M&S. She already had a partnership with the nail varnish brand in mind in preparation for her M&S interview.

M&S ups focus on brand characters as it recruits to ‘supercharge’ Percy Pig

Marketing boss Cramond sees character brands like Percy Pig as playing “a huge role in driving customer loyalty and brand recognition” for the retailer. The pig mascot, who turned 30 earlier this year, now stretches far beyond the original gummy sweet product, with a range spanning Percy bedding, jigsaws and even dog jumpers.

In order to optimise the company’s brand character potential, M&S wanted a marketer who would develop “effective relationships” with the product and trading teams to influence the new product development pipeline. Describing NPD as a big part of the growth strategy for the Percy brand, Cramond wants her team to explore new categories while also “protecting and growing the core products”.

While NPD has long been on the agenda for Percy and other M&S characters, brand collaborations are an expanding focus for the business. Earlier this year, for example, M&S teamed up with The Bottled Baking Co. to launch Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar baking mixes.

The Percy Pig and Nails Inc collaboration is not the first across food and fashion or beauty this year. The clothing collaboration between bakery chain Greggs and retailer Primark won the 2022 Marketing Week Award for Sponsorship and Partner Marketing, while youth-focused apparel brand Hype partnered with fast-food chain KFC.