M&S, Christmas ads, customer experience: 5 things that mattered this week and why

Catch up on this week’s marketing news, including all the retailers’ Christmas ads (so far), M&S’s plans to reform its loyalty scheme and the top brands for customer experience.

Retailers unleash their Christmas campaigns

‘Tis the season for Christmas adverts!

Tesco kicked off the festive theme this week with its celebration of diverse British Christmases. From hipsters struggling to work out how to cook a turkey to siblings arguing over whether Yorkshire puddings should be on the festive table, the BBH London-designed ad shows families and friends enjoying seasonal get-togethers. With no mention of price or promotions, Tesco is using this advert to dial up its quality message.

Marks & Spencer, however, decided to focus on value and price with the release of its #MyMarksFave Christmas food campaign. The retailer has invested 40% more in media this Christmas making this its biggest festive food campaign to date and explains that it feels “more confident” talking about the prices this year.

For clothing and general merchandise M&S ditched the “classic blockbuster ads” to target busy families with an “unashamedly commercial” campaign that puts product at its heart. Building on the successful ‘Holly’s Must-Haves’ collaboration with ITV presenter Holly Willoughby which launched in September, the ‘Must-Haves That Make Christmas’ campaign features 15 times the number of products included last year.

Debenhams decided to avoid “vanity project” TV ads too by focusing on making its stores a “true gift destination” with the latest iteration of its ‘Do a bit of Debenhams’ platform. Seeking to “reclaim” its position as the destination for gifts, Debenhams has focused on the joy of giving by celebrating the “fist-pump” moments when you find the perfect present.

Managing director of beauty and marketing, Richard Cristofoli, argues that consumers have become “cynical” about big cinematic ads and especially at a time when the department store chain is looking to close 50 stores, it would be “remiss” not to think really carefully about how to maximise return on investment.

At Aldi, Kevin the Carrot is back for the third year running, having first teased that it might be the end for the Kev after a trailer emerged last week of his truck crashing in the snow. In the first 60-second film, created by McCann UK, Kevin is locked in mortal combat with wicked parsnip Pascal on a mission to save his family.

Discount rival Lidl is hoping to encourage the nation to upgrade their Christmas at no extra cost, with a campaign that puts a comedic twist on “modern and relatable” festive occasions. Developed by TBWA\London the adverts show shoppers who have saved so much at Lidl that they can afford to employ a dining room orchestra or import reindeer to graze at their dinner table.

With Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and others still to reveal their Christmas campaigns it will be interesting to see if they too shun big blockbuster ads in favour of something more product-based or whether they go all-out with a cinematic extravaganza.

For all the latest Christmas news follow the Marketing Week Christmas Blog and check out all the latest Christmas news here.

M&S unveils plans to reform Sparks

Marks & Spencer’s Sparks loyalty programme has been criticised for being too confusing and convoluted to use from the start (a quick scroll on the Mumsnet forum tells you all you need to know).

Fortunately, M&S has realised this, as boss Steve Rowe admitted this week during a press conference on the morning it released a mixed set of half-year results (profit up 2%, clothing & home and food sales down 1.1% and 2.9% respectively).

While the retailer maintains it has a good product, it has acknowledged that it is too points-focused and discount-heavy. Most pertinently, it doesn’t reward customers enough.

It’s not going to be a short-term fix, Rowe says, but it is at the top of M&S’s long list of things to do as part of its five-year digital transformation plan.

Can a reformed Sparks scheme help to save a retailer weighed down by extortionate business rates and handicapped by its incredibly slow shift to digital and ecommerce?

While M&S has undoubtedly felt the impact of fast fashion retailers and people’s changing shopping habits, it has a strong brand heritage and an incredibly loyal customer base which works in its favour.

There is a clear opportunity for M&S to build on that and bolster its digital proposition with a Sparks scheme that is easier to use and that rewards people in a much more relevant way.

The hiring of its first chief data officer, Jeremy Pee, who will begin work next month, will (M&S hopes) help to make sense of the data it has on its customers and how it can be used to create a loyalty scheme that works better for both customers and the business.

READ MORE: M&S boss: We’ve got to fix confusing Sparks loyalty scheme

First Direct reclaims its crown as the top brand for customer experience

first direct

The top 100 brands for customer experience were revealed this week, with First Direct reclaiming the top spot followed by new entry Metro Bank in second and Lush in third (also a former table topper).

The annual ranking by KPMG Nunwood shows that while these brands continue to do well from a customer experience perspective their scores are relatively flat. First Direct’s score grew from 8.06 out of 10 last year to 8.20 in 2018, while Lush increased its score by just 0.02 to 8.02.

In fact, there is little improvement generally at the top of the ranking as brands are struggling to keep up with consumers’ ever-evolving demands. Growth is actually coming from the lower end of the table where there has been a greater level of improvement, helping to push the overall score of the top 100 up, albeit by a meagre 0.7%, to 7.13 out of 10.

Given the pace of improvement is faster lower down the table, if the organisations at the top want to remain there they must not rest on their laurels. Consumers’ expectations are changing at a fairly frightening rate, so the brands that continue to succeed when it comes to experience will be the ones that are set up internally to adapt and respond to customer demands quickly.

READ MORE: Top brands for customer experience ‘struggling to keep up with rising expectations’

Mothercare returns to advertising after 10 years

Mothercare is back after a 10-year advertising hiatus with a campaign looking to shine a light on parenthood and the milestones that come with it.

It is the first piece of work the retailer has done with Mcgarrybowen since the creative agency won the pitch in August, with Mothercare so pleased with the results that it decided to roll the campaign out two months earlier than planned.

From first tears to first goodbyes, ‘First Steps’ has been created to pull on the heartstrings. But of course, the aim of the campaign goes beyond just that: it is Mothercare’s attempt at re-establishing itself as “the leading global specialist for parents” at a time when it knows all too well the financial pressures many retailers are facing.

As such, Mothercare has chosen to leave TV from the mix and go with a social media-heavy campaign, where it believes it can find its target audience. It is probably safe to assume that this is a cost-driven move as well.

It’s a nice campaign; the sentiment is there and the creative execution is simple but effective.

Given the strong focus on social, there is only a modest amount of activity on Twitter so far with the #FirstSteps hashtag, although it is unclear which tweets are related to the Mothercare campaign.

So Mothercare might need to push a little harder on social media if it is to give the campaign the traction it needs to drive brand reappraisal and get people into its stores.

READ MORE: Mothercare pulls on heartstrings with first major ad campaign in a decade

Sky takes major step in limiting gambling ads

The concerns surrounding problem gambling being fuelled by advertising has been a discussion point for some time. And now, one broadcaster is taking matters into its own hands.

Sky is the first major UK television network to self-impose a limit on the number of gambling adverts it airs during commercial breaks.

As part of the plan, Sky said it will slash the number of gambling ads to one per break, a significant move likely triggered by rising concerns regarding gambling addictions and the prominence of betting in today’s society.

One of the major issues is that the timing of gambling advertising – especially late at night when people with mental health problems are vulnerable and more likely to respond – is stimulating an addiction.

Sky isn’t stopping at just cutting back gambling ads either. The company has gone one step further and is also introducing new tools to help protect people in the UK who are considered at risk of problem gambling.

For instance, it is developing its AdSmart technology which will allow people to block gambling adverts when watching Sky or Virgin Media platforms.

The changes will take effect at the start of the next Premier League season, opening up a host of new spots to other brands and advertisers.

Since Sky has kicked off gambling restrictions on its network, it will potentially open a gate for other broadcasters to consider doing the same.

READ MORE: Sky cracks down on TV gambling ads during live sport



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