M&S shifts strategy to target families with Paddington Bear fronted ads

Marks and Spencer’s has moved on from just targeting ‘Mrs M&S’ and will instead look to engage the entire family during Christmas with a campaign starring Paddington bear.

‘Paddington and the Christmas Visitor’ is the first Christmas campaign to come from Grey London since it picked up the creative account from RKCR/Y&R last year. At the heart of it is an advert that sees the iconic bear inadvertently stop a burglar from robbing his neighbours.

Though a departure from the mum-focused ‘Mrs Claus’ spot that proved a hit with the core M&S shopper (female, and over-55 years old) last year, M&S is hoping this family focused campaign will appeal to kids and parents alike while retaining the “emotional connection” that it admits had been lost in previous Christmas marketing efforts.

“We’d been talking about using our family credentials to leverage growth for a while. We loved the notion of two major British icons coming together and Paddington was the ultimate family character,” Rob Weston, head of marketing, told The Drum.

“We researched [the premise of Paddington] very early this year and people said Paddington was their second all-time favourite film. It set us off on a great track.”

In partnership with Digital Cinema Media, the 90-second advert will be shown before the start of every screening of the new Paddington 2 film while M&S will also run screenings of the film for its Sparks loyalty members and their children.

Putting Paddington at the heart of its strategy

Admitting that it could have done more with the ‘Mrs Claus’ concept across the whole customer experience, Weston said he plotted this year’s strategy determined to bring Paddington off screen and into more stores.

“We felt last year there was more potential that we were able to realise,” he continued. “This year’s is our most joined up campaign ever.”

Taking a cue from the John Lewis school of Christmas merchandising, a dedicated section of the store – The Paddington Shop – will house more than 90 themed products while marmalade will be heavily promoted in M&S Foodhalls.

Among these products will be a children’s Christmas storyboo that tells the story of the advert. To launch the book, M&S will also host a series of book readings for children at stores around the UK and all profits from sales will be donated to the NSPCC’s Childline service.

The iconic bear will also be put front and centre in M&S’ Christmas windows, while in-store ‘Moment Makers’ have been asked to surprise customers with Paddington-themed ‘Random Acts of Kindness’ – such as a free marmalade sandwich in the café or some Paddington chocolates at the till.

Online, M&S will host an “interview” with the bear on its content hub, Style & Living, along with downloadable marmalade recipes.

Reviving sales

It comes during a turbulent time for the retailer, which has been forced to shut a number of stores amid falling sales.

Analysts have predicted pretax profits will fall by more than 10% to £201m for the six months to the end of September, as clothing and home sales continue to tumble.

Weston said the partnership with the film’s makers Studio Canal will undoubtedly help it “cut through” the activity from rivals and hit its sales target for the season.

“This combination couldn’t be more British," he said. "It isn’t just another typical turkey ad. Coordinating with Studio Canal and advertising in cinemas and on social [around the film] has been designed to help us cut through a lot of the noise.”

Join us, it's free.

Become a member to get access to:

  • Exclusive Content
  • Daily and specialised newsletters
  • Research and analysis

Join us, it’s free.

Want to read this article and others just like it? All you need to do is become a member of The Drum. Basic membership is quick, free and you will be able to receive daily news updates.