Jigsaw’s top marketer held his breath as its ‘Heart Immigration’ manifesto launched this week to challenge the idea that anything (or anyone) is 100% British. Amid a sea of vapid creative coming from marketing departments at fellow fashion brands, Alex Kelly admits this work might lose it some customers but it’s a happy trade to show that the retailer stands for something.
At the core of the marketing push lies a manifesto which has been printed in national news outlets including the Guardian, Telegraph and Evening Standard – as well as appearing in a full take-over of Oxford tube station – to challenge the notion of what Britishness is.
“British Style is not 100% British,” it proclaims. “There is no such thing as 100% British."
“Whatever your opinion, at some point in your ancestry someone moved in and unsettled the neighbours. Because none of us are the product of staying put. And we’re no different. As a clothing brand, we couldn’t do what we do if people weren’t free to move around.”
Just hours after the campaign launched, Kelly was fielding calls from angry customers slamming the retailer – which sits alongside LK Bennett, Hobbs and Reiss in the ‘high-end high street’ market – for embroiling itself in politics.
While Kelly has claimed that it never intended to make a political statement, he accepts that in the current climate and as people still reel or rejoice in the decision to leave Europe, using words like “fear, isolation and intolerance” in an marketing campaign was bound to ruffle feathers.
“The reality is that it’s not a political statement but […] it is saying that as a brand we couldn’t do what we do without the immigration of people, ideas and culture. And it’s to wave the flag for immigration, because it’s become a very negative word in the media,” he told The Drum.
“We could have had a campaign that said ‘Heart Diversity’ and it would have been very nice and safe, but the whole point of using ‘immigration’ is that it jars and celebrates the positive aspects of it."
For other brands, taking a stance on diversity has come down to the models or actors that are cast. But Kelly said he didn’t want this to be a "racial box ticking" exercise and was conscious to echo the sentiment of the manifesto and feature people where there would be ambiguity in where they come from.
"It’s a very sensitive campaign and it’s not without its risks – people will associate it with Brexit and immigration – and, yes, we’re playing in this area because it’s topical," he continued. "But we have to make it relevant to us and let other people have those debates.”
According to some early analysis, over 90% of the feedback on social media, email and through its customer service calls has been in support of Jigsaw’s stance.
Well done Jigsaw- this beautiful pro-immigration ad campaign is distracting everyone at Oxford Circus tube tonight. pic.twitter.com/0rxIeQjJ9H
— Gráinne Mellon (@GrainneMellon) October 11, 2017
It helps that in the lead up to this, arguably its riskiest advertising to date, Jigsaw has spent three years sowing the seeds for being a retailer isn’t going to shy away from calling out the fashion industry’s weaknesses.
Through the lens of ‘Style and Truth’, which now underpins the entire business, its previous marketing ventures have included campaigns such as ‘Life not Landfill’ which had a poke at fast fashion, and its ‘Reduced by nothing, standing for something’ ads which ran last Black Friday.
“We’ve positioned ourselves as a brand that encourages debate and likes to be talked about,” Kelly said.
“People don’t need another fashion brand showing pretty pictures and ok clothes. You have to make people feel something now. Yes, there’s a risk people might not agree with the message or think we have a position to talk about it but we feel like we do.”
For all the risks, Jigsaw is reaping the rewards of this overhauled strategy. Kellyclaimed the brand has seen double digit growth, opened over 30 new points of sale, and “will end the year in a positive position” in a difficult market where many others have gone bust.
To build on this momentum, the next phase of ‘Heart Immigration’ comes in the shape of a partnership genealogy service ancestry.co.uk which will see staff undertake tests in a bid to showcase how diverse Jigsaw’s own team are.
Kelly said the results could inspire a Jigsaw product or collection to be launched next year, although what that looks like is up for discussion.
The work was developed by its long-standing creative agency The Corner while media planning was managed by The 7 Stars.