Reversal of fortune: brand reinvention for M&S

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Reinventing fashion: will Try Tuesday help M&S' sliding fortunes?

Brand reinvention is not a new concept. Brands in this digital day and age have to constantly change and adapt with the current market landscape, to remain relevant, or if they don’t, risk becoming redundant.

Marks & Spencer is a brand that has gone through many changes in its 134-year history. Although clothing is a relatively ‘new’ addition to the M&S family, among a younger ‘Instagram age’ audience, there is a perception that M&S clothes are matronly and appeal to an older age group.

But M&S is trying to change that, in a lesson on how to reinvent its content to engage a new audience.

Its Try Tuesday personal styling service is advertised in many places but is most prominent on Instagram. Although many businesses now use this platform, M&S isn’t the sort of clothing a younger audience would expect to see here.

On first look, Try Tuesday - the personal styling platform from the brand - could be the Instagram post of an influencer with a breakdown of each outfit, shoppable posts, and reposts of other interesting outfits. Yet, the only mention of M&S is a slyly placed hashtag in the bio. By positioning itself in front of an audience familiar, and putting an aesthetic spin on all visual content, M&S is re-inventing what its clothes can be to a younger audience.

Here’s how a user gets started:

Stating that a bot is being used actually increases the engagement, as a user doesn’t like the ambiguity as to whether they are speaking to a person or machine. By clarifying the process M&S is providing a great user experience, and the ‘chat’ interface will be comfortable and familiar to the younger audience it wants to target.

Initially, it asks what you need help with, to begin building your profile. By building up a detailed image of who the individual is, and what they want, M&S is effectively engaging its user, and also preparing for the 'nurture' process.

Then, go into the styles you’d like to see - picking one of nine available styles so your personal stylist can further understand what you’ll be interested in seeing.

By asking the age bracket, it is making the styling age appropriate; M&S clothing might have previously been seen as for the 40+ age range by many young people, but by making the brackets fairly small, it is really narrowing down its audience and what their needs for clothing will be.

This is a great pre-requisite question to have for a service like this - a common bugbear with frequent personalisation of content. If all digital content on social, retargeted ads and news sites are now designed to be relevant for a user will the user ever be served anything new and interesting? Will they miss something that might have otherwise been attention-grabbing, due to the algorithms? This question seems to sidestep that obstacle nicely, and, like a human stylist would, gives the user the chance to see new and exciting things for themselves.

We all know there’s nothing worse than seeing the perfect item and not being able to get your size. M&S’s tech team has made an excellent addition of this feature to try to combat the out of stock blues.

Most women under 5’3” will understand the hassle of finding something really nice, yet far too long. The petite range is their best friend and this question will also tailor the content for the tall and plus size ranges too, by building out a detailed picture of the consumer.

Another issue for many women - shape. By selecting this, it seems like the algorithm behind this will be able to find the perfect outfits for your exact body, not just a body type.

Then the nurturing process begins. The email arrives, from a human being, no less - an actual personal stylist has taken your profile and figured out the best way to make their user look top notch in M&S clothing, boosting sales in these awkward in-between season times. And they’ve even taken a users height and size details from the sign-up process and given a petite-specific range:

The ‘classic’ M&S look is now far more desirable, highlighting selected on-trend pieces. The Instagram friendly images of influencers effectively used to show inspiration in the emails, really draw in the reader.

Although M&S hasn’t actually rebranded itself, this strategic new arm to its service offering is positioning its products in front of a new audience of value.

For other businesses out there, who want to reach a new demographic, take note from M&S and follow this checklist of things to do when trying to engage a new audience of value:

  • Look at your competitors - have any of them ever reinvented themselves before? And how did their campaigns do? Consider what was strong or weak about their attempts and think about what could you learn from them.
  • Consider your current positioning within the market. Are you a startup? A well known, heritage brand? Or somewhere in between? Who is your main consumer already?
  • Think about the new audience you want to reach. Where do they engage with brands, online or in actual stores? On social media, and if so, what platforms? Do they research products or are they better reached through more traditional forms of advertising. Audience data is key here, and creating personas could help you through this.
  • Now, look at your product. Think of trends for your desired audience, and how they would like to see the product and create campaigns where your content and products are displayed in an interesting way to this new consumer you want to reach - appeal to the visual senses for this demographic.
  • Like Try Tuesday, personalise the content your new audience will receive. Using marketing automation for these sort of campaigns can help with this if you do not have a more sophisticated system like M&S.

Kirsty Daniel, senior marketing executive, Zazzle Media

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