Bolland to (thankfully) hack M&S apart

The recent news that new new M&S Chief Exec Marc Bolland will be reviewing the brands extensive label collection didn’t really come as a shock. And, it has obviously not worried anyone since shares in the M&S stock rose 5pc on the very day Bolland’s appointment was announced.

Many will agree that the famous department store has become an unfathomable jungle of labels which host no brand philosophy behind them: Autograph, Indigo, Portfolio are all just labels with no stark or customer-noticed identity. The only sub-brand that anyone truly recognises is Per Una which made the brand an reported £500m in 2008. I think this has a lot to do with attention to the brand and the detail of the product as well as a clear and significant financial investment in the brand’s promotion. Only Per Una has specific branded carrier bags.

In fact, I was at a presentation and networking evening recently headed up by Geek Branding Consultancy and the topic of M&S came up as Bolland had only recently been given the M&S crown. Rafael Gilston, co-founder of Geek, said of the M&S shopping experience ‘it’s just a sea of product’ and that the test of a true brand was whether or not it could stand up on it’s own, he said that he felt ‘only Per Una is ready for that’.
I am not going to ramble on about Marc Bolland’s many challenges, as you can read about them everywhere. I just hope that the Mother of the highstreet remains so under Bolland that that the sub-brands he axes make room for others to flourish. I don’t think M&S would do too well if it went the way of NEXT and dramatically limited its sub-brand offer. Nor, however do I believe allowing square-footage to sub-brands that customers do not identify with is a good plan either. I look forward to seeing where Bolland’s axe falls.

Blog Geek

I recently attended a brand development seminar hosted by Manchester Fashion Network and presented by Geek Branding Consultancy. Sound boring? You couldn’t be more wrong! I was asked to cover the event for the editorial segment of Manchester Fashion Network’s website because my Editor, and the brains behind the blog tweet, was a little poorly after Latitude Festival shenanigans.

The event was aimed at brand owners and people working in PR and media and generally sold the Geek Consultancy package but let slip a few juicy techniques and tips for free! Being a person who is passionate about brands and fashion from a business perspective as well as an artistic perspective I was interested in what Amanda Burrows and Rafael Gilston had to say.

See me Tweeting?

One major point that kept cropping up in the presentation Geek were giving and in the questions being asked by event attendees was the point of Social Media. Social Media and other marketing platforms are ways to voice a brand’s message and personality but they are not a one way street. To Tweet is conservation and brands have to accept that tweeters, bloggers and social networkers (that is you and me) are going to shout about what we think about their brand! An example being my recent post about AmericanApparel in which I praised the brand and condemned Urban Outfitters for their stance on LGBT rights. I’m not the only one doing it (obviously) there are hundreds. Another example is with the recent MAC Rodarte controversy (don’t know about it? Click here) Bloggers had multinational conglomerates by the balls and they weren’t letting go.

Consumers are becoming critics.

Many people already know this but did you really know that the brands are actively seeking to tap into this resource in order to preach their brand’s values, mission and personality and thus, to make more money?

When I asked about Geek’s stance on Social Media when they are working with a new client, Amanda Burrows answered: ‘It is so important … we hold our hands up, we’re not experts, but we have a social media guy who is brilliant, to work with us on brands.’ Burrows went on to say, of the heads of big fashion brands, that they are ‘terrified of social media … it is a generational thing’. From Burrows’ experience she has witnessed brands having blogs ‘which don’t speak to their customer because they’re written but some girl in marketing typing away about pop-up shops’. Brands in the fashion industry are desperate to reach out to the customer in these new platforms because they offer a golden opportunity for their brands to become integrated into the consumers life, the consumer lives the experience the brand sells.

Some successful retailers that manage this are TOPSHOP with their popular Twitter portal (@topshop_tweets) and ASOS with their use of blogs. ASOS, bizarrely have one of the worst click conversion rates in the ecommerce sector (that means most people clicking onto their website don’t then click to purchase but go elsewhere for their goods after seeking the up-to-the-minute fashion news). Fortunately their customer base is big enough to cope with the millions of none buyers and their blog-power fuels their branding instead of sales margin. Come to think of it I visit the ASOS site regularly but the last thing I bought was 2 years ago….

Whilst sat in the audience room balancing my dicta-phone on my lap, updating my Twitter (@jordanjmcdowell), MFN’s Twitter (@TheFashionNetUK) and note taking for this very blog, I realised it wasn’t just brands that were obsessed with social Media, it controls my life.

Photographs by Jennifer Urwin contact me for Jennifer’s contact details.