Marks & Spencer


Perceptions that the retailer's fashion is dated cast doubt on its ad strategy.

The strategy behind Marks & Spencer's fashion ads has been criticised of late, most severely by Mail On Sunday columnist Liz Jones. 'Never mind yacht-frolickers Twiggy and Dannii Minogue, where is the bigger woman on that boat, or the woman in her 70s? Ignore them at your peril,' she wrote earlier this year.

Now, M&S is overhauling its celeb line-up. Minogue, Myleene Klass, singer VV Brown and model Ana Beatriz Barros are gone, but Twiggy, DJ Lisa Snowdon and Jamie Redknapp are believed to be staying put.

The star-studded campaign, along with its 'Not just food' counterpart, had been central to the revival strategy of the high-street stalwart over the past seven years, but could the tide now be turning?

Our 'word cloud' shows that consumers still see M&S as a quality retailer. The problem is that they also see it as expensive, old and boring.

Interestingly, our research revealed that the older the age group, the more people like M&S' celebrity ads.

The same pattern emerged when respondents were asked whether M&S appealed to their age group. However, while few felt it was 'too young', a significant number of under-55s believed it 'too old', reflecting the image problem M&S faces. So, with its Christmas ad campaign now in development, what must M&S do? We asked Peter Cross, managing partner of Mary Portas' fashion-focused agency Yellowdoor, and Scott Harvey-Nicholls, partner at So The Agency, and a former Elizabeth Arden marketing director.

CONSUMERWATCH MARKS & SPENCER - DO YOU THINK MARKS & SPENCER PROVIDES
FASHION THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOUR AGE GROUP?
                                18-24    25-34    35-44    45-54     55+
Yes, it's great for me            4.9      7.5     12.2     20.3    25.8
Yes, but not always              23.3     33.6     49.0     47.4    53.5
I don't know                     15.1     19.2     14.9     16.5     8.5
No, it's too young                1.5      1.5      1.4      2.5       5
No, it's too old                 55.2     38.3     22.5     13.3     7.3
From a survey of 2000 adults conducted on 9 August

PETER CROSS - MANAGING PARTNER, YELLOWDOOR

Having celebrities of all ages in its ads initially worked for Marks & Spencer; it was exciting. There was momentum and a sense of warmth from the public for this great British institution. It had gusto.

However, it wasn't the age of the women alone that made the campaign powerful. What started as a clear idea began looking naff within a few seasons. …

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