Meet John Lewis & Partners: the retailer puts the 'personal' at heart of brand overhaul

John Lewis and Waitrose have revealed their first ever joint brand campaign and revamped logos to reflect their new brands – John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners.

Following a troublesome year for fellow department store House of Fraser and a profit warning from John Lewis itself, the significant marketing spend is its “biggest ever” outwith those famous Christmas ads according to its top marketer Craig Inglis.

The push is supported with a fresh shared strapline: ‘For Us, It’s Personal’.

The copy marks a departure from John Lewis’ ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ tagline which has been in place since 1925, shifting the focus towards the service provided by the businesses’ 85,500 staff (or ‘partners’) who each own a stake.

John Lewis and Waitrose announced their name change back in June. At the time, parent firm John Lewis Partnership (JLP) said the “relentless” pursuit of scale wasn't the right course to ensure the future of the business.

Instead, the both shops pledged to: shine a spotlight the unique joint-ownership model, which JLP described as a "competitive advantage"; offer more personalised services; stock a greater selection of niche and owned brands; and invest between £400 to £500 million per-year in innovation.

Reinforcing difference

While the marketing blueprint might have been reset, the energetic and stylistic joint campaign bears all the hallmarks of a classic John Lewis ad.

In implementing its new strategy, the partnership has stuck with longstanding creative shop Adam&Eve/DDB, tasking the agency with creating a debut joint spot as part of a wider campaign dubbed ‘& Partners.

The two-and-a-half-minute film shows a group of cute primary school kids putting on a special performance of Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen for their parents.

It finishes on the line: ‘When you’re part of it, you put your heart into it’, which the company said looks to bring the personalised ‘partnership’ element of its service to life; showing that when people feel part of something they go the extra mile, leading to “extraordinary” results.

"Our customers tell us time and again that they love the exceptional service delivered by our partners and that that's what makes us special in their eyes,” said Inglis, customer director for John Lewis & Partners.

“This change to our identity puts our partners right at the heart of our brands and reinforces that difference.”

The drive will debut during Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off on Tuesday 4 September.

As well as running on TV it will feature in cinemas and online. Separate creative will shine a light on the stories and skills of more than 100 partners to illustrate what sets John Lewis apart.

An updated brand ‘manifesto’ will feature in print ads and be relayed by staff on in-store as well as in online films under the hashtag #WeArePartners.

In bringing the department store and supermarket chain together in both advertising and design, Martin George, Waitrose & Partners’ customer director said it now means when one of them advertises alone there will be a “halo effect” on the other.

Created by Pentagram the fresh logotype for John Lewis & Partners, Waitrose & Partners and JLP was inspired by the original work for the partnership's holding firm which was designed by Hans Schleger and Peter Hatch in the early 60s.

Back then, the design used pattern as a central part of the brand expression, and the new iteration uses the exact same weight and thickness of the original lines.

The artwork will be rolled out across John Lewis & Partners' 50 stores, and Waitrose's 48.

Innovating in-store

As well as facing a squeeze from Amazon, John Lewis & Partners is competing in tough high street trading conditions. Just last month, House of Fraser was saved from the brink of administration by Sports Direct's Mike Ashley, while Marks and Spencer is shuttering stores.

In June, JLP issued its own profit warning, saying expected profits in the first half of 2018 were to be "close to zero", while profits for the full year would come in "substantially" lower than last year.

Execs blamed "market uncertainty" and the cost of IT investment, selling four Little Waitrose convenience stores to the Co-Op and closing one to save money.

At the time, JLP said it was widely acknowledged that the retail sector was "going through a period of generational change"

"Every retailer's response will be different. For the partnership, the focus is on greater differentiation - not scale," it added. "We have clear plans to build on our strengths and to sharpen our points of difference in both Waitrose and John Lewis."

With online sales jumping 21% last year, Waitrose & Partners profits are expected to grow where John Lewis & Partners' decline.

However, JLP will be hoping a pivot towards brand purpose will help both businesses deliver.

Already, John Lewis & Partners has funneled some of its innovation budgets into its largest ever own-brand womenswear collection comprising 300 designs. It's also launched a gifting collection called 'Find Keep Give' where the majority of pieces were created by staff.

When it comes to Waitrose, own label product ranges will begin a five year programme of change from October, starting with a new Christmas range later this year, as well as the launch of its new ‘Free From’ range in October.

In both stores, special 'customer service ambassadors' are being trained to provide a more personalised customer service front of house. This includes healthy eating specialists, a concierge style service and personal stylists.

At the start of the year John Lewis' managing director, Paula Nickholds, revealed it had even experimented with getting staff to help create its social media content ahead of the Christmas trading period.

Update: John Lewis has contacted The Drum to say that its new 'For Us, It's Personal' ethos will stand in addition to, rather than replace, its 'Never Knowingly Undersold' promise.

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