Marks & Spencer Gets a Makeover with Clever Content Marketing

Marks & Spencer Gets a Makeover with Clever Content Marketing

by Anastasia Dyakovskaya

5 minute read

For a traditional brand like Marks & Spencer that’s 130 years in the making, transitioning into the modern digital world has been a long time coming. This February, the retailer unveiled a new site — finally freeing itself of the Amazon e-commerce platform on which it’s operated for the past seven years — to allow for a new era of growth, flexibility, and innovation.

Let’s take a look at some of the steps that have led up to the shift, and what the brand’s been doing to keep its wheels moving forward.


Back in 2012, Marks & Spencer joined up with Oxfam to bring forth an idea that would make the world a better place – and serve as an awesome piece of content marketing. After all, everyone wants to feel like they’re a making a difference, and when you make it easy to do, people want to participate.

The brand’s Shwopping initiative does just this by encouraging shoppers to donate their discarded clothing through in-store drop-offs and online pushes, including a wonderfully engaging game element. A reported 6.9 million donations came in within the first year alone, which Oxfam says is potentially worth £4.5 million.

The venture has only continued to grow, making way for more ideas for campaigns and events, including last year’s Shwop Shop at the M&S Marble Arch. The stunt had celebrities donate garments to fill the pop-up, while buyers were asked to bring in something of their own for a chance to shop.

Shwopping has had a tremendous effect on all parties involved – shedding a positive light on green-loving Marks & Spencer while bringing in much needed funds to Oxfam during this difficult economic period. And the best part is, fans love it, too.

It’s amazing the synergies you can discover when you try putting others first. What are some ways your brand can get involved in doing good and bringing about positive change?

Leading Ladies

When it comes to clothing sales, M&S has had an unsurprisingly difficult few years. In an effort to reverse falling numbers, last summer the brand unveiled its newest and ongoing fashion campaign – Leading Ladies. Critics have labeled the campaign as scattered and confused, but it’s the cast’s diversity that has worked to speak to such a broad audience – “30 million people across food and general merchandise,” said Marketing & Business Development Director Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne in a MarketingWeek article.

In reality, the campaign has worked wonders to usher the brand into its new look of modern sophistication, tied closely with what’s going on for the new site as well. The Spring/Summer 2014 follow-up continues to spotlight Britain’s standout females, and little by little, sales are rising with a .2% increase.

The current campaign is attributed with leading to the sale of 412,000 of the featured items, outshining last season and surprising some with the results. Many of Rita Ora’s looks, for example, turned out to be best sellers, totally upturning the company’s understanding of its core audience.

Lesson learned. You never know until you try, so try something new, and see what happens.

Believe in Magic & Sparkle

Last winter’s fairytale-inspired Christmas campaign was another hit with fans. With a return to its Magic & Sparkle theme, the brand thought it would generate some buzz by airing a sneak peek of the advertisement before its official TV launch. A fun and brilliant way Marks & Spencer succeeded in boosting engagement all the more? They followed up the preview by giving viewers the power to name the starring pooch.

We’re well aware by now that pets pack a pretty powerful punch on social media and the Internet at large. That Scottish terrier was no different. The stunt reached 23 million people within a day and resulted in 300,000 new Facebook fans. The Guardian reported that 130,000 people cast their votes on Facebook and Twitter, passionately voicing their preference for Magic or Sparkle as the name, with Sparkle coming out on top.

The spot, which currently has almost 118,500 views on YouTube, also featured non-canine celebrities like Helena Bonham-Carter and Rosie Huntington-Whitely, who has enjoyed an ongoing role with the brand as lingerie designer with her Rosie for Autograph line.

Worth noting: The supermodel’s advertorial spots are paired with related YouTube content created by the M&S team, like interviews with the beautiful Brit and design leads within the brand. One such clip has over a whopping 74,000 views.

Makes you think – how and where could you develop some extra video content for your brand? Even a 10-second teaser can makes waves when done right.

Style & Living

When viewers are more interested in hearing what Huntington-Whitely has to say about her collection than watching her model it, that’s a fair sign that content is king, and M&S definitely kept this in mind when reimagining their site.

Earlier this year, Marks & Spencer unveiled a complete redesign, the result of three years of planning and development, with the hopes of turning around declining clothing and homeware sales. The new look is a welcome change that follows the visual footsteps of style giants Net-a-Porter and MyTheresa, creating a much-lauded high-fashion magazine feel for the brand.

Style & Living is the editorial heart of the relaunch, providing daily content from respected journalists, celebs, and guest editors on lifestyle, ideas, and inspiration related to the brand’s various product lines. Constant updates are in place to keep stories fresh and encourage repeat visitors and shoppers.

Head of online and digital marketing Lou Jones quipped in MarketingWeek: “Content is like a shop assistant sitting at your site and guiding you through the shopping experience.”

And the numbers don’t lie: “We know that 24 percent of customers are more likely to shop when they’ve been through content.” And it seems to be working – as of May 1, the brand reported 1.45 million registrants on the new platform.

It may have taken a while, but when it comes to digital, never is not an option. Marks & Spencer may be a bit late to the game, but hopefully their efforts will prove fruitful in the months to come. May’s new “Discover” campaign is set to bill the site as the brand’s flagship destination with daily social media outreach and ever-expanding, highlighted content.

It might be a slow climb, but Marks & Spencer is definitely headed in the right direction. What’s your take on their latest efforts?

By Anastasia Dyakovskaya, NewsCred Contributor