Friday, May 22, 2009

This isn’t just any u-turn – this is a Marks and Spencer u-turn…

The ongoing Marks and Spencer ‘bra debate’ of recent weeks has ensured that the marketing and PR teams behind ‘Britain’s most trusted retailer’ have certainly had their hands full. The protests have come in all shapes and sizes (well, above DD) from outraged female consumers, forcing an extremely public u-turn. However, this isn’t always a PR nightmare if handled as well as M&S have…

If you’re not currently au fait with events in the world of women’s brassiere retailing, this should fill you in… Marks and Spencer recently announced it they would be raising the cost of its larger bras (defined in this instance as DD or above) by £2 to accommodate the increased amount of materials used in the production process – logical, surely? Nope.

Marks and Spencer were immediately harangued by well-endowed women claiming that this amounted to discrimination – the more radical contingent even went so far as to form a group entitled ‘Busts 4 Justice’ – original. M&S clearly had a PR disaster on its hands, and in a time when the retail sector is fighting for every penny, negative press is to be avoided just as much as a quick sojourn to a Mexican pig farm.

However, the response devised by the company’s top brass (should that be top bras?) and marketing wizards needs to be commended, as near disaster has been cleverly averted. Whilst the directors have waived this £2 surcharge to appease the busty brand bashers, the marketing bods have delivered a piece of marketing gold that could well have saved the company’s egg-covered face.

The ATL campaign that has been implemented in the press, on outdoor billboards and online shows a close-up of a lady’s bra-clad chest with the simple caption ‘We Boobed’. There’s no doubt that this advert will be responsible for a few car accidents where it appears on motorway billboards, but its impact extends further than affecting frustrated male drivers. By admitting its mistake and being honest with its customers, Marks and Spencer has shown that its marketing strategy is one of the bust…

This isn’t just any u-turn – this is a Marks and Spencer u-turn.

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