Marks and Spencer were heavily criticised last week when they unveiled that as part of their renewed strategy, that for clothing, at least, they would be focussing on their core customer who they call Mrs M&S. Described by them as a 50 something who shops with them around 18 times a year and who wants “stylish contemporary clothing” this announcement was actually part of a 5 point program but this was lost amidst the criticism of their patronising view of their customer.
It’s been well documented that M&S performance in the clothing market has been less than satisfactory over the last few years. With a new CEO at the helm clearly, this is something that they want to focus on.
The use of the term Mrs M&S has been viewed as at best old fashioned and at worst patronising and I don’t disagree, but the problem with what M&S said was not with the strategy but with the way that they communicated it – and perhaps who communicated it.
Any smart company knows that in this digital age, now more than ever you have to be absolutely clear who your ideal customer is. Most businesses will have many ideal client personas (I have 3 main targets for the different aspects of my business) and in the case of M&S with their diverse product line they are no different.
In developing your personas it is important to name them, so they are personal and clear in your mind as you develop the product, the marketing message, whats important to them, what they read, where they interact online etc etc. So in this M&S were absolutely right to identify that this 50 something female audience is a key target for them.
But and here is the but… if you are going to do this then you need to damn clear that you also talk to them in the right way and don’t alienate them in the process. And calling them Mrs M&S is a problem – especially when you are perhaps already perceived as a little old fashioned, and when you are trying to lure them away from Next and Primark. See our blog post on knowing your ideal audience.
Really the problem here is not that they identified the target ( its marketing 101) its that they called them Mrs M&S and that they then told everyone this. The problem is that by saying that their ideal customers want stylish and contemporary clothing they then ruined it all by calling her Mrs M&S and not talking to them in the way the customer wants to be communicated to – or indeed reflects the persona
I’m pretty certain they got some ultra expensive uber-agency to help them with this strategy development and when they did it was a shame they didn’t perhaps point out the flaw in this naming. Or maybe they did and the 60 something white male thought he knew best. Afterall, no one would be upset by this term, would they?
Wouldn’t it have been a whole lot better to get one of these so called “”Mrs M&S’s”” to talk about this and spoken right to the heart of the audience?
Of course not, it was for the city after all that this announcement was made. But remember all communication these days has the potential to be seen by anyone at any time. So for you (and M&S) we have developed a template for you to ensure that you know your customer, what to call them and how to talk to them.