What real people think about the M&S brand

Unknown-3Hot on the heels of the various comments on the Christmas advertising barrage, I experienced a real life large focus group yesterday. I was giving a guest lecture at the Business School of Westminster University for their post-graduate students pursuing various MA’s and MBA’s.

The audience was around 80, mainly female, age group around 22-28.

I’d been asked to discuss Brand Differentiation and its business implications via various case studies of brands I have worked with. One of my models of how to assess the life cycle of brand equity strength provoked some interesting comment. In a nutshell it describes brands in various stages of their life from rising stars through to fading stars, summary below.

After the formal bit a discussion began about various brands and the current crop of Christmas advertising. The audience started playing a game on where they might place various brands on the chart.

M&S came in for quite a bit of bashing and the collective view was M&S is a fading star. The verbatims included;
“confused brand”
“for my mum”
“stores are not like the advertising”
“yesterday’s brand”
“trying and failing to be young”

The advertising was liked very much as a production but as someone said “It feels like it should be for a different brand”.

It would have been great to have the top brass of M&S in the room. These were intelligent, articulate, fashionable people and the universal opinion was negative. They were not wishing M&S to fail and fall flat on its face, they felt they should be true to what they are and not try to be something they are not.

It was a fascinating bit of free research from a very large group of the people M&S would like to attract back in to their stores.


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About Paul Simons

Paul joined Cadbury-Schweppes in brand management and then moved to United Biscuits. He switched to advertising in his late 20s, at Cogent Elliott and then Gold Greenlees Trott. He founded Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow & Johnson in the late 80s, one of the leading creative agencies of the 90s. Simons Palmer then merged with TBWA to create a top ten agency. Paul then joined O&M as chairman & CEO of the UK group. After three years he left to create a new AIM-quoted advertising group Cagney Plc. He is now a consultant to a number of client companies. Paul also shares his thoughts on his blog. Visit Paul Simons Blog.