Thursday, November 27, 2008

Reality or dream?

Marks and Spencer is something of a bellwether of where the wardrobes of Britain's women are heading. From its recently released range it looks like middle England is turning its back on glamour in favour of safe, classic choices.

Executive chairman Stuart Rose explained yesterday's launch :"Customers are buying on a more considered basis," he added. "Men are buying versatile suits rather than loud ones; women are buying solid colours rather than exotic prints."

Is this code for saying in dark recessionary times we want dark and sombre clothing?

Unfortunately, I am the last person on the planet to be able to answer this question.

The more interesting thing (for me) is that the flagship of the new M&S strategy is the launch of a new mini-brand called ‘Portfolio’. This is aimed at the core M&S customer base - in the words of the Guardian newspaper: “women in their forties and fifties who, while not quite ready for elasticated waistbands, are more concerned with looking ‘coordinated’ and in a forgiving fit, than with looking fashionable.”

The publicity surrounding the launch of the range gave provides an opportunity to graphically illustrate one of the questions I am most often asked: “Should companies use models of the age of the customers or go for a glamorous portrayal of the clothes?”

The model on the left is from the PR launch pack for the range. The lady on the right is Emma Soames, the editor of Saga Magazine, who is well within the target age range of the brand. The lady on the left is a model of unknown age.

So who portrays the product the best? Bottom line – who is most likely to ignite the interest and create the intention to go and look at the product? Mmmmm I wonder. Dick Stroud

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