M&S: Building Marketing Capabilities Across The Customer Experience

M&S is one of the UK's leading retailers, with over 1,330 stores worldwide. It sells high quality, great value products to 33 million customers through 852 UK stores and their e-commerce platform.  The business has two divisions: Food and General Merchandise and in both, the focus is on growth by consolidating their position as a leading international, multi-channel retailer. Our work with M&S was awarded winner in the ‘Building Marketing Capabilities’ category at the 2016 Marketing Society Excellence Awards.

Where it all began

Our journey with M&S began in 2012 when external pressures; inflation, recession and significant price pressure from discounters began to affect their performance. It was recognised that, to support the response to these challenges, they needed to equip the Food Marketing and leadership teams to grow their influence on the strategic direction of the business

BRAND LEARNING was asked to support them in lifting the functional performance of Marketing in the short term, and equipping them to lead a customer-centred organisation longer term.

Our Objective

To deliver profitable growth of the Food Business in a price-driven market by building Marketing’s capabilities across the customer experience

What we did: The Highlights 

We worked in partnership with the team at M&S on a three-phase capability programme which:

  • Established a common way of marketing in M&S Food for the first time (focused on critical areas e.g. brand positioning and integrated communications)
  • Applied new capabilities to build a differentiated, premium brand positioning in a price-driven market
  • Enabled Marketing to work cross-functionally to drive brilliant customer experiences through new processes and live-action-learning programmes
  • Inspired and equipped Marketing Leaders to drive customer-centred strategies and behaviours across the business

The impact we delivered

Building a common way of marketing and applying new capabilities has helped re-energise and galvanise the Marketing community. It inspired with what great looks like and equipped them to strengthen their performance. Rollout workshops were widely valued with 94% of participants saying they would recommend them to their colleagues. More importantly the Food Marketing team recognises, and is recognised for, its improved performance.

M&S has seen significant impact since putting the customer at the heart of their business planning and improving the customer experience. Strengthened marketing capabilities have led to a motivated, high-performing Marketing team which in turn, has delivered superior business results:

  • In 2014/15 the Food Marketing Team stood out as the most improved marketing team in the business, +37% in the ‘Your Say’ Employment survey
  • Since the capability investment began, the M&S customer experience net promoter score has increased by 14%
  • M&S has outperformed all other top supermarkets leading to a record 4.3% market share and LFL UK Food sales have grown by 4% across the last 3 years

Watch this video to hear Nathan Ansell, Marketing Director at Marks & Spencer describe the work, what it is like working with Brand Learning and the commercial results we achieved.

Hear more from M&S' Nathan Ansell about encouraging his team and the whole organisation to have a constant connectivity with customers. He discusses the role of data science alongside traditional research in helping Marks & Spencer focus on what customers value, not just what they say they want.  



BRAND LEARNING brings expertise and powerful learning experiences which have helped transform the capabilities of our Food Marketing team and leaders. Ultimately, our partnership has been critical in helping to transform the M&S food customer experience Nathan Ansell, Marketing Director, M&S
The investment we’ve made in Marketing Capabilities over the last few years has played a pivotal role in achieving the strong business results in our food business that you see today Steve Rowe, CEO, M&S
This was a transformative learning experience, relevant to the work I do and particularly beneficial from a development point of view Participant of the Business Planning Workshop

Published with kind permission.

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Other examples

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What we do

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