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Bringing Marks and Spencer back to life

Client: M&S
Brand: M&S

How confident communications helped restore public confidence in M&S

The business problem

"M&S occupies a unique place in the British consciousness. We care about it and feel ownership of it in a way that’s quite unique –
“We follow its ups and downs almost as if it were part of our extended family” (Justine Picardie, The Telegraph, April 14th 2006).

But In 2004 M&S had become vulnerable to a virtual takeover bid from Sir Philip Green, and the brand needed to become stronger to resist this threat.

While product and stores were improving, marketing, and especially advertising, needed to kick-start a reappraisal

The solution

We needed a communications idea that could make the country fall in love with M&S again. It needed to connect with a vast and diverse range of audiences, and to showcase diverse products.
Your M&S was born, and became a powerful rallying cry that resonated with audiences from the city to consumers to staff, uniting the disparate parts of the business into one voice.
Abiding by three guiding principles, we set about reframing the way people thought about this great British institution…

•Discipline – focus on what will make the difference •Conviction – fewer, bigger messages •Confidence – a new exuberant tone


The work

Womenswear was identified as the key to turning the business around. M&S is the UK’s largest clothing retailer, with clothing representing 45% of the business. And as 80% of all M&S shoppers are women, with women even being the main influencer with men’s fashion, the fact that M&S was no longer delighting the girls was a problem that needed fixing fast.

i) Womenswear

Reflecting the fact that women express how they feel through their clothes, M&S celebrated dressing up as self expression – ‘What’s Your M&S?’

ii) Lingerie

Being seen as purveyors of sensible, frumpy pants was a problem, especially in the light of increased high street competition like La Senza and Agent Provocateur.  So we showed M&S as being almost a lingerie sweetshop, with lingerie goodies to suit a woman’s every mood.

iii) Menswear

Although not very fashion forward, British men even felt that M&S was lacking, despite great product improvements. So because they want to wear their clothes rather than vice versa, we used the Autograph range to show men expressing their signature style

iv) Food

A great reputation for superb quality food, was starting to come under threat – from other supermarkets launching ‘best’ ranges, and from Waitrose stealing more of the ‘cook’s pound’. M&S food customers are food lovers rather than lovers of cooking, so we chose to revel in the sheer unadulterated pleasure of M&S food…

v) Kidswear

A great reputation for schoolwear meant parents overlooked M&S kids fashion credentials, despite wanting their little ones to expres themselves through their clothes too. So we allowed them to get some of Your M&S too…

vi) Christmas

Christmas from M&S is keenly anticipated, and with the competition catching up with big blockbusters, we needed to keep raising the bar with our own festive fashion spectaculars…

The results

Journalists loved the campaign - £6m of positive PR was generated in the launch phase alone and the products sold like hot cakes – food sales were up 10.5%, general merchandise up 10% with products from blouses to puddings were selling out due to overwhelming demand.
It was a hit with the City, who acknowledged the impact of the advertising, with share price hitting £7 (from £4 at the time of Green’s virtual offer).

Our advertising has been recognised as a driver of real business impact with the IPA awarding M&S the Grand Prix for advertising effectiveness.

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