M&S's top marketer on why he wants the brand to be 'pioneering in culture' with radical new campaign that will touch on price

Marks and Spencer (M&S) has embarked on what it describes as a ‘radical departure’ from its usual advertising efforts with a campaign that unites its food and clothing divisions under one somewhat ambiguous tagline – ‘Spend it Well’ – for the first time.

First and foremost, M&S wants to be seen as being “bolder” and “leading on cultural issues” with the marketing refresh. The retailer’s top marketer said he sees the new ‘Spend it Well’ positioning to be more of a “brand philosophy” that encourages customers to only spend time on quality experiences, people and things that really matter.

“It’s a value statement. In an overcrowded, consumer goods space where there is a lot of stuff available it is about making the right decision,” Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, executive director of customer, marketing and M&S.com, told The Drum. “The call to action I want this to have is ‘don’t miss out on the things that really matter in life today, don’t be on autopilot.’”

But beyond the ‘life’s too short’ message there is one that lingers on promoting price, a subject M&S rarely brings up in its above-the-line marketing. Although unintentional, Bousquet-Chavanne admitted there is a “double entendre” that he’s happy to go along with given the investments M&S has made into lowering its clothing prices over the past year.

“It’s ok with me if people do see the [price] value angle,” he explained. “We’re in a market where that does matter a great deal but it’s as much the emotional value attached to the brand as there is attached to the product.”

It marks the first piece of work to come out of Grey London (recently renamed Valenstein & Fatt) since the agency won the creative and digital account from incumbent RKCR/Y&R last year. The idea it brought to the table was based on introducing an inspirational tone of voice for the brand that focused on attitude and empowerment, rather than age.

“M&S has been pioneering in culture and it’s when we resonate that we’re more relevant as a brand,” continued Bousquet-Chavanne. “This is all about renewing how the nation at large is looking at M&S and getting them to take a fresh new look at us. I want the brand to have a stronger voice with greater conviction.”

Rolling out today (4 May), the TV spot will be supported heavily with investment into social, digital, press, outdoor, radio and in-store activation.

The marketer declined to comment on how much it has invested on the push, saying it’s difficult to compare it to previous efforts given it “goes beyond the seasonal campaigns” and is instead about the whole company pivoting around this idea.

Employees have been involved in a wider initiative to support ‘Spend it Well’ – dubbed ‘Make Every Moment Special’ – which will give them a pass to help customers “celebrate those small and larger moments in life”. It first tried this at Christmas when staff were encouraged to offer treats like a free coffee from the café to in-store shoppers.

The campaign will run with various executions – some specifically featuring food, others clothing and home – until September when the brand will ready itself for the arrival of former McDonald’s marketer and Halfords chief Jill McDonald.

Tapped for her experience in reinvigorating brands, she will take on the hard task of turning sales in the general merchandise division.

Bousquet-Chavanne said he was impressed with McDonald’s hire and that they have already discussed the marketing approach M&S is taking.

“We talk the same language,” he said. “We both have a digital mindset and place an importance on driving loyalty.”

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