How Marks & Spencer is rethinking its marketing for India

M&S has further plans to expand in India

Marks and Spencer is launching its first India-specific marketing campaign this week, despite the country being the second largest market for the brand.

The campaign's aim is to translate M&S’s core values, while tying in local insights and messaging that will speak to the target audience locally. The ‘Rethink’ message is about convincing shoppers to be a bit bolder in choices for everyday fashion, including workwear, and is shot in a ‘street-style’ photography aesthetic.

Ira Dubinsky, head of international marketing at Marks & Spencer, spoke to The Drum about the reasoning for this angle and what is next for the British brand in India.

“India is a key market for M&S and an area where we see great opportunity for further growth in future," he explains.

"The M&S international marketing team and agencies in India, therefore, created and delivered our Rethink campaign to evolve the M&S customer proposition in the market, adding specific customer communication about our product offering which is unique to the India market and local consumer tastes and interests."

A core challenge for many global brands that need to deepen relevance in particular markets is balancing its heritage and values with the need to localize.

“India is a very large and complex market and in many cases, we are introducing M&S to large numbers of consumers for the first time. As a result, we are signposting the values that M&S stands for, quality delivered at competitive prices, much more clearly than we would in the UK, while also mixing in some more supportive India-specific messages which increase our affinity with local consumers,” adds Dubinsky.

She says the issue of addressing this balance is “The age-old question for any brand operating globally!" She adds that the strategy is to make sure the “core offering of what M&S stands for is consistent across each and every market in which we operate, whether that be the quality in the products we offer, the outstanding levels of customer service, or the sustainability of our sourcing practices and wider operations. That being said, it is, of course, important to connect with the local consumer and tailor our offering according to the unique characteristics of each international market, which is why we recently launched our Rethink campaign in India, which mixes our strong heritage and values, with an India focused customer messaging.”

The Rethink campaign was created by Grey, mostly from the UK where Marks & Spencer is based, but with talent from its Delhi office brought in to help with cultural and localized insights. Dubinsky says that this is the standard of cooperation that a global business requires as it grows globally.

“This was our first major communications development project working hand-in-hand with client and agency teams situated in both the UK and India. One of the strengths of the campaign was being able to access Grey’s global network and find talented strategists and creatives who understood the local market and could work in partnership with the team in London who know M&S so well. This is a leading example of the support we require from all our agencies to support our international ambitions and partner with us as appropriately,” he explains.

With more stores opening in 2019, the Rethink campaign is only in its first phase, according to Dubinsky. “This is only the first chapter of Rethink; it’s a platform we intend to use for several years and there are some exciting plans underway for future seasons.” A focus for the business will be in developing its online offering, as well as growing brand awareness.

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