Marks & Spencer is overhauling how it talks about the value of its food as it looks to “debunk the myths” over its pricing and talk up its points of difference on quality.
Its new ‘Re-Marks-able value’ positioning will start to appear from today (13 November) across shelf edge ticketing, in-store communications and social media. It is designed to draw attention to its pricing, highlight that prices have been lowered and talk up quality.
For example, communications around a 500g packet of 5% beef mince will highlight that it costs £3.50, is British and had its price lowered in October 2019. On milk, it will highlight the price but also its milk pledge, which promises to pay dairy farmers a fair price.
M&S Food managing director Stuart Machin says: “Re-Marks-able is part of our plan to debunk the myths about our prices, as we know customers’ perception doesn’t always match the reality.
“M&S Food is changing fast and our value is increasingly competitive, especially on the everyday products families shop most often. But as we change, we’re protecting the things customers love about M&S and that means never compromising our outstanding quality or sourcing standards.”
M&S has lowered prices on more than 500 lines in recent months, including everyday items such as bread, which now costs 65p compared to £1.15 before, and milk where the price has been reduced from £1.29 to £1.15 for four pints.
In total, it has invested more than £100m in reducing prices as it looks to transform its food business from a special occasion retailer to the mass market.
Value perceptions are a key challenge for M&S in food, where it needs to shake off perceptions that it is expensive if it is to appeal to a wider, more family-based audience. Data from YouGov BrandIndex shows that M&S has a ‘value’ score – which measures whether UK consumers think a brand offers good value for money) – of -3.9, putting it 29th on a list of 32 supermarket brands and ahead of only Londis, Spar and Waitrose.
Aldi, by comparison, has a value score of 52.2 and Asda a score of 24.1.
This is despite M&S’s strong food brand, which comes second to just Aldi in terms of overall perceptions with a score of 33.5, and tops the rankings in terms of ‘impression’, ‘quality’ and ‘reputation’.
To launch Re-Marks-able, M&S is running an ad campaign across digital content, social media and print advertising, as well as in its 564 stores. In-store activity will include the creation of 13 Re-Marks-able hot spots to highlight its value in key categories such as salmon, through to everyday staples including brand and pasta.
Re-Marks-able gives us one clear and consistent way to talk about our great value with customers.
Sharry Cramond, M&S
The campaign is part of broader moves to shift away from a focus on the M&S brand to talk more about its product range and prices. Earlier this year, M&S added price to its messaging but it is now taking this a step further by communicating value.
M&S Food marketing director Sharry Cramond tells Marketing Week: “Re-Marks-able is the next step – giving us one clear and consistent way to talk about our great value with customers. This helps build trust in our everyday pricing – as well as our quality.
“We often talk about value with values and that means – great prices without compromising the quality, welfare and sourcing standards customers trust M&S to deliver.”
Food has been a success for M&S in recent years, despite troubles at its clothing and home business. But sales have slowed in recent quarters as its pricing put people off doing their big shop.
To shift those perceptions, recent marketing has looked to engage families through, for example, its Little Shop collectibles promotion over the summer and sponsorship of Britain’s Got Talent.
“We want to make M&S more relevant to more families across the UK,” adds Cramond. “It’s early days but we’re seeing encouraging signs that M&S is building relevance with more families.”
Efforts to drive value and broaden appeal do appear to be paying off, with its food business returning to growth in the first half of the year, with total revenue up 1.2% and like-for-like sales increasing by 0.9%.