Sunday, August 14, 2011

M&S is right to put over-60s out to grass

In Marketing Week there was a light-hearted article, well at least I think it was light hearted, from “brand guru” and advisor to the great and good + associate professor of marketing Mr. Mark Ritson. Wow, I bet he needs large business cards.

My immediate thought after reading the headline was .. at least the over-60s normally pay for the their goods unlike a lot of the younger age group, who think payment is an optional extra. I thought better of it is since it was a bit below the belt in the week of youth rioting across the UK.

A couple of quotes from the Ritson article

I think M&S are pretty much playing a perfect game at the moment by not catering to the over-60s. It’s exactly what any self respecting fashion brand should be doing if it wants to continue to thrive on the high street.
Add it all up and it’s pretty clear that M&S has to do everything in its power to stop wonderful women like Ms Roodyn (a 60 year-old lady) buying their clothes. If it doesn’t do that the brand risks getting old with its clients and dying with them too.
Many brands have outlived the original clients that first patronised them. But this presents a very peculiar problem because to survive, every fashion brand must, at some point, detach itself from its original target segment and move backwards to younger, more attractive segments. It has to keep doing this in order to continually stay alive across the centuries. To not regularly rejuvenate one’s target market would be to risk commercial failure. Death by brand loyalty!
This is a useful article since it states, in a rather wordy way, one of the most often quoted reasons for not targeting older consumers. It would be much easier to have said: “targeting the old alienates the young.”

In truth, Mr. Ritson has a point. Of course there is always the inconvenient truth that the older market is growing in size as the younger one declines and that older people, well some of them, are pretty well-off and insulated from the economic trauma that is sweeping Europe. And of course there is always the issue that the longest and most successful advertising campaign that M&S has ever run used Twiggy (aged 61) as its core talent.

The reason why M&S’s campaign was so successful was that it was a beautiful execution of age neutral advertising. Very basic in concept, using multiple generations, but beautiful execution.

Nobody said that running a fashion business that caters for multiple age groups is easy but that is the world of 2011. The idea that you can cast-off a whole generation like yesterday’s fashion is so – how can I put it – so 1990s marketing. Dick Stroud

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