M&S aligns food and GM marketing for first time under ‘Only M&S’ strapline

Marks & Spencer is dropping its ”Leading Ladies” fashion and ”Make today delicous” food campaigns in favour of one unified brand idea for the first time as it looks for clothing sales to match the success of its food business.

The campaign, which launches on TV tomorrow (2 September), introduces a new strapline “Only M&S” that will appear on all the retailer’s advertising for the next 12 months. It will kick off with a food, women and men’s clothing push, with home and children’s clothing to follow later in the campaign.

Speaking to Marketing Week, M&S’s executive director of marketing and international Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne says this will be the first time food and GM have run concurrently on TV outside Christmas, bringing “unprecedented reach and power” to the campaign. The ads will initially run on TV for three weeks, with M&S “topping and tailing” ad breaks, starting with a food message and ending with GM, or vice versa.

“We have a great advantage in having M&S above our food stores and our GM stores. There is only one M&S. When we come to the marketplace as one united power force its formidable.

“We hope that in totality one plus one equals more than two,” he adds.

M&S’s GM sales fell for their 12th consecutive quarter in the three months to the 28 June, down 1.5 per cent at stores open for more than a year. Within that division, clothes performed slightly better with like-for-like sales falling 0.6 per cent.

Food on the other hand continues to boast strong growth with sales up 1.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis. Last year, food accounted for 55 per cent of M&S’s business, while GM was 45 per cent.

The food campaign will kick off with a brand ad aimed at “setting the stage for why M&S is a unique place to shop” and modernising its proposition 10 years after it launched its “food porn” campaign. The brand message will be supported by product-led TV ads focusing on the stories behind different products, such as bread and wine, titled “Adventures in”.

M&S will also be pushing the campaign, created by RKCR/Y&R, in print, digital and social media, as well as in stores. Bousquet-Chavanne believes there is an opportunity for M&S to push an “innovation and imagination” message at a time when rivals are all shouting about price.

“We will play on what makes M&S special and why M&S quality is worth every single penny. The tagline on TV is about introducing hundreds of new ideas every week, only M&S can do that. We will unfold why we are so special in each story,” he says.

The GM push will lead on womenswear and the launch of the new autumn/winter collection with quality credentials such as materials used, sewing techniques and technology ramped up. M&S is focusing on four key fashion trends with the aim of offering a guiding hand to help shoppers navigate the latest styles.

“I want M&S to be a guide, an advisor, a confidante. Fashion can be a bit disconcerting at times, we want to help clarify it,” says Bousquet-Chavanne.

M&S will be taking its online style guide offline for the first time, offering it as an insert in fashion magazines and in stores. It will also offer a “social collection” where customers can create their own version of a trend, with M&S sharing the best ideas on Instagram with the aim of “democratising fashion in real time”.

Bousquet-Chavanne believes the time is right for M&S to speak with more on authority on fashion, with this collection marking its third since it brought a new design team on board. M&S will also be revamping the accessories, bags and shoe department in its 70 top stores and plans to offer its full range in its top 170 stores.

Unlike in previous years, all the items that appear in its ads will be available in stores, a move that follows criticism of the retailer when shoppers couldn’t buy popular items in their local shop last Christmas.

The campaign marks a shift away from M&S’s celebrity-fuelled campaigns of recent times and is the end of the Leading Ladies campaign “at this point in time” as M&S prioritises pushing product and the synergies between its two businesses. It will also run internationally in print and social media, focused on locally-relevant stories.

“We hope a halo effect will work both ways, boosting a thriving food business and improving GM. The greater value creation for M&S comes from food and GM combined,” he says.