A couple of weeks ago British retailer Mothercare released its first significant ad campaign in a decade entitled ‘First Steps’ intended to capture those first moments parents experience. This campaign comes following the news that the retailer will close 50 of its 139 stores by June 2019 with 900 potential job losses. This decision is driven by the fact that the longstanding brand experienced pre-tax loss of almost £73 million for the financial year to March 2018 and it’s just announced blooming half-year losses. So will the First Steps campaign assist to turn the retailers’ fortunes round?
The campaign must be applauded for being very ‘real’ -using images and models which resonate perfectly in the ‘real’ world. Avoiding the Instagram perfection and clichés many may be led to believe are indicative of motherhood and parenting, it has a comforting reality of life across any demographic and nationality. However, for me, it doesn't speak to a wider audience and as a ‘turnaround’ campaign, the message needs to be broader to attract all pockets to come and spend in-store.
The ads are articulated beautifully, drawing on the raw emotion of being a parent and it will resonate with parents or those expecting, no doubt drawing them into or back to the brand. However, the ad seems to have forgotten people who aren't in the same position, perhaps an aunt, uncle, godparent or friend who has not yet or has no desire to experience parenting, whom therefore may not share the same emotional connection.
They are also potential shoppers, some may argue with more disposable income, who also need to be attracted to the brand to spend. The wider the appeal of the ad, the more it increases the odds to attract shoppers of any kind. Surely, this should be the objective of this desperately needed turnaround campaign which is all about increasing sales.
In the UK the average annual birth rate is 670,000 births (Office of National Statistics) and the market value for this sector is £7.3bn and estimated to grow by 2021 +2.3% in clothing and 4.4% in Footwear (Euromonitor) and research from 2017 indicates that 64% of shoppers prefer to touch and feel products in this category, 48% prefer to research products in-store resulting in 58% of sales created in physical retail (Pragmarket). The opportunity for growth is therefore evident for any retailer in this sector, especially an established brand like Mothercare, as while it's unlikely that the nation will stop giving birth, people can be influenced where we shop.
The customer experience must reflect the emotional journey the brand takes its audience through in these ads and translate it onto the shop floor. The creative and sentiment that’s applied to the ad, the real and caring traits it communicates must be applied to staff, the store layout, its ranging, staff training and the advice they give to a new and likely tired parent or complete novice when shopping for infants.
A clear message which translates from ATL to the in-store experience is crucial to ensure a clear measurement of ATL and to convert awareness to revenue. A successful ATL may well bring customers back but a poor customer experience may make that crucial first hello, the last.
And here’s the real dichotomy for Mothercare, do they invest more money in the remaining estate to make the shops a truly engaging experience and destination for people or leave them wondering what their role is in the ‘real world’ – I know which strategy my money is on!
Daniel Todaro, managing director, Gekko