Content brand of the week: Marks & Spencer, the store with lots in the content department

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You mean the 19th century philosophers Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer? Finally, a bit of intellectual conversation around here!

Sorry to disappoint but we’ll actually be talking about the department store where your mum does her Christmas shopping.

So we won’t be debating the merits of a realist interpretation of the world versus one of substance dualism?

Not unless that has something to with Christmassy content…

Fine. What’s the department store been doing to win content brand of the week?

M&S has really stepped up its game in the run-up to Christmas including some fantastic shoppable video content. With titles like ‘How to decorate your Christmas tree’ and ‘How to wrap an odd-shaped present’, the aim of the content is clear – helping the M&S audience based on a sound understanding of what they need and value. Classic content marketing.

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Marks & Spencer knows what its audience needs.
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And shows them how to do it.
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Content finishes with a clear CTA.
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And a smooth transition into the ecommerce funnel.

I just wrap all my presents in tinfoil, much easier than all that faffing about with sellotape and ribbons.

Yes well fortunately for Britain’s middle classes you’re not in charge of the M&S content strategy. The savvy understanding of its audience continues in the Style Edit section of the main Marks & Spencer site, where the brand’s editorial team has put together selections of products that will help readers navigate the festive season with flair. The content is divided into ‘features’ and ‘edits’ and is heavily geared towards women. Nevertheless there are some important tips for men here too, thanks to pieces like ‘The men’s guide to buying lingerie’ the days of panicky husbands standing sheepishly in the bra section should be a thing of the past.

That’s a shame. Seeing the panicky husbands was my favourite part of the M&S in-store experience. That and the weird café they always have on the top floor, obviously.

Obviously, but while you may enjoy the sight of stricken men fumbling with bra clasps in scenes reminiscent of a Father Ted Christmas special, those blokes probably don’t get as much of a kick out of it. Once again Marks & Spencer has married the needs of its consumer (a simpler Christmas shopping experience) with its brand aims (to be the go-to destination for Christmas shoppers), and created content accordingly.

It’s all very cutting edge for such a traditional brand. I’m impressed!

Exactly. What M&S is doing so well is taking a forward-thinking approach to consumer engagement, while backing that up with the high standards of customer care people have come to expect from a traditional department store. This grab from the M&S Facebook page sums it up well. A customer request is answered clearly, promptly and politely, and even signed off with the name of the team-member who replied. Human visibility like that is on page one of the social media handbook.

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So M&S uses Facebook well for customer care, what else does it do on social?

The M&S Facebook isn’t just for responding to customer comments, there’s lots of commerce-driven content, as well as links to the other content discussed above. In terms of engagement measures and the pursuit of likes, shares and comments the brand has been absolutely dogged.

“Dogged” Is that a reference to the ‘Magic or Sparkle’ microsite?

It is indeed, well spotted. Early in November M&S ran a public vote to decide whether the adorable Westie pup featured in its Christmas advert should be named Magic or Sparkle. 83,000 likes and 43,000 comments later the hound has a name! Classic social media gold. The brand’s other social accounts are equally strong with 290,000 followers on Twitter and more than 9,000 subscribers to its Pinterest page – another channel where M&S is offering advice for surefire gifting success.

You mentoned they have a Christmas ad. Not very content brand-y, is it?

Of course they do, along with every other major high street store! While advertising definitely isn’t content marketing in its strictest sense, that doesn’t disqualify it from being called branded content. What we’re really impressed by is the way the advert was used as a foundation from which lots of other online content was built and generated (see Magic or Sparkle reference above, as well as a constant stream of Facebook, Twitter and video posts featuring the darling dog since the ad first aired) – M&S treated its ad as just one part of a far bigger ‘always on’ marketing strategy. It also helps that M&S’s effort is one of the best Christmas ads of the year. Here it is.

Advertising? Bah, humbug!

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Author: Tom Owen

A strategic storyteller and compelling content creator, awash with acuity and adept at alliteration. I work for Speak Media. www.speakmedia.co.uk

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