This isn’t just any new marketing strategy… This is an M&S marketing strategy…

There are innumerable ways to play on and parody the Marks & Spencer “food porn” strapline, but its days as an official M&S slogan are over.

The “food porn” ads featured the sultry voice of Irish actress Dervla Kirwan but the chain is now opting to take a direction which pushes its prices, provenance and quality.

Marks & Spencer has revealed an overhaul of its marketing strategy in a move that will no doubt receive an equally vigorous beating from the media and from the public as it does a welcoming embrace.

The retail chain is throwing out its “this isn’t just…” strapline much to the displeasure of headline writers everywhere.

M&S marketing director Steve Sharpe believes that the slogan will live on in the public’s consciousness because it has become so much a part of the vernacular, and I think he’s right, however, the chain is right to move on.

There is such a thing as flogging a dead horse, and the line has become so parodied, it was almost difficult to tell the difference between a genuine M&S food ad, and a trailer for a comedy sketch piggy backing its familiarity.

I’ve spoken to several retail specialists about the new direction for M&S and all were in agreement that the timing is perfect. Where there were disagreements they concerned whether the new campaigns were brave enough for M&S.

Adrian Thomas, head of retail at Billington Cartmell, believes that M&S’s food ads will be trading on the very things every other supermarket is, when what M&S should be doing is differentiating.

He says: “The ’Just because…’ line doesn’t feel like it’s going to be hugely different from the supermarkets so how does it differentiate from ‘Tesco Finest?”

He pointed out that Waitrose has been marketing based on its provenance and quality consistently for years and Morrisons has built its reputation around its “fresh food” proposition with much success.

Managing director at retail consultancy Live and Breathe Nick Gray, however, believes that the “Just because…” line fits very well into M&S’s core values and can be retrospectively applied to all its values.

What is yet to be seen is what influence Bolland will have on the chain’s marketing direction when he joins on 1 May and will the new strategy be around for the long haul or will there be another overhaul?


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