So That Was 2001: The Marketing Industry Has Had Its Fair Share of Ups and Downs over the Past Year, but 2001 Will Always Be Remembered for the Atrocities of September 11

Marketing, December 13, 2001 | Go to article overview

So That Was 2001: The Marketing Industry Has Had Its Fair Share of Ups and Downs over the Past Year, but 2001 Will Always Be Remembered for the Atrocities of September 11


For Stanley Kubrick, 2001 was a Space Odyssey -- a fantasy of the future. Now, it is history. But the events of 2001 were no less dramatic, and were at times so surreal that even Hollywood could not have dreamt them up.

This is a year that will never be forgotten because of one day -- a sunny Tuesday morning when terror of an unimaginable scale changed the world. From now on, people will talk of life pre- and post-September 11.

In retrospect, the world has been going crazy all year. The apocalypse in the US is on a different scale, but our sense of normality has been constantly challenged by events.

At the start of the year, the foot and mouth outbreak made us feel like the country was gripped by plague, making it nigh on impossible for the Meat & Livestock Commission to market British meat. It's hard to forget those images of smouldering pyres and the fact that, for half the year, the countryside closed down, which meant that despite the British Tourist Authority's best efforts, UK visitor numbers plummeted.

The Selby rail crash in February caused yet more chaos. The rail network, still crippled by the Hatfield disaster, was devastated, eventually leading to the collapse of Railtrack in November -- even a [pounds sterling] 3m ad campaign by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) urging passengers to use rail services couldn't stop its demise.

In the wake of these events, the postponed general election passed inconsequentially. An estimated [pounds sterling] 14m combined adspend by Labour and the Tories didn't inspire the public -- people couldn't be bothered to vote and didn't care that much about the result.

In football, having been used to turnips, we grew to love a Swede, as Sven Goran Eriksson guided England to the World Cup -- which promises to be a marketing bonanza.

Marketers will remember 2001 as a year of uncertainty and unpredictability. Consumer spending remained high, but sapping business confidence put marketing and brands under pressure. The industry should brace itself for another rocky year.

After four years of calamitous decline, Britain's most embattled retailer is finally showing signs of recovery. In November, it reported a 20% leap in half-yearly profits to [pounds sterling] 220m and its share price, having hit a low of 183p a year ago, is up at around 350p. Remarkably, M&S has been one of the best performing companies in the FTSE 100 this year.

Accused of complacency in the past, the company worked its M&S socks off in 2001. New head of UK retail, Roger Holmes, drafted in respected talent, including Yasmin Yusuf from Warehouse to become design chief. Her 'Perfect' autumn collection went down a storm, helped by a stylish press campaign and a [pounds sterling] 25 black polo neck. The appointment of Next founder George Davies to create the Per Una designer range was another coup. A store renewal programme has helped shake off accusations of dowdiness. Food is also being overhauled, with the launch of Simply Food convenience outlets.

M&S has shaved costs by closing down stores in Europe and selling operations in the US. Chairman Luc Vandevelde has refocused on the UK market. Further savings have been made by shifting to foreign suppliers. This has been a controversial move as long-standing UK suppliers have been cut, but M&S says there will be a cost saving of [pounds sterling] 400m the next three years.

Marketing director Alan McWalter's overhaul of M&S marketing structure and the appointment of ex-Unilever marketer Jude Bridge as ad chief has sharpened the company's marketing. A high-profile press campaign for M&S food ran earlier in the year and the brand recently returned to television with its pre-Christmas TV push starring Zoe Ball and other celebrities. The feel-good commercial is a million miles from the infamous 'I'm normal' campaign of last year. …

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