Zag Ep. 65 - M&S: The unexpected challenger, Cracking the CMO Code & Barbie's B2B Wisdom

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📅What Challengers Need To Know This Week

📅We’re back! After a much-needed summer break, we’re back to regular scheduled programming of all the insights you need to know about from the world of challenger marketing!

In this week’s edition:  
  • The 5 Lessons for B2B marketers from Barbie
  • M&S becomes a challenger - no seriously.
  • Martin Lindstrom on why The CMO doesn’t matter and how to fix that
  • Rival is a B-Corp!
❤️ The Challenger We Loved This Week

Well, would you look at Marks & Spencer go! From a has-been brand with revenues dropping faster than a hot potato, and a FTSE 100 dropout in 2019, they've now got their groove back.

Their annual pre-tax profits? Up a jaw-dropping 21% to a cool £476m. And sales? Up a whopping 9.6%, flirting with the £12 billion mark.

So wait…How?

Thanks to some challenger-esque moves, like raking in the cash from online sales, rolling out contemporary new brands, and leveraging the important parts of their brand sentiment, M&S has transformed itself into a brand-new beast. But let’s dive 👇

🫂 Brand Heritage

Don’t throw out what works.

  • Anna Braithwaite, Marketing Director at M&S recognized that M&S had brand equity in being known for “quality”.
  • Instead of trying to reinvent M&S from scratch, she opted to retain the idea of quality and bring this to the forefront again but for a whole new generation.
  • Keeping any of the old brand heritage may seem bizarre for a challenger, but actually, against a backdrop of the cost-of-living crisis and a swathe of “fast-fashion”, the focus of the brand on “we’re still great quality at true value” is pretty smart.

🎉New Brands

One of the big things we talk about when it comes to being a  successful challenger is to use marketing to find product market fit.

  • M&S noticed that the next generation of consumers cares about eco-friendly skincare, fair trade food, and timeless style.
  • But to figure out what works and what doesn’t in terms of products within these niches, M&S launched a number of brands to test what works across beauty, athleisure, and homeware all with their own messaging, creative direction, and product lines.
  • This type of “MVP” testing is not common amongst incumbents but honestly is one of the smartest ways to find that product market fit quickly.

🙌 In House vs Out Source

In a world of challengers, you can’t operate with outdated methods.

  • One of the big overhauls M&S made was to change the way it works with its agencies.
  • Starting with M&S Food, they ended their retainer with Grey London in 2021, and chose to build their creative teams in-house and only rely on external providers for freelance and project work.
  • This is something we see time and again with successful challengers. The ability to build your agency internally is not only more effective in terms of being able to produce campaigns quickly, but it’s easier to find insights in the data which drive creativity when everyone is effectively “sat around the same table”.

👍 Finding “Phygital

Where many retailers struggled or refused to embrace digital, M&S made choices to create best-in-class experiences that allow the customer to go from physical to digital and back again, seamlessly.  

  • In October 2022, Katie Bickerstaffe (Co-CEO) noted that 65% of online orders were fulfilled through stores, and customers who shopped across multiple channels spent 4x as much as single-channel customers.
  • M&S has prioritized developing a digital experience centered around a mobile app, which now boasts 5 million active monthly users.
  • This customer-centric approach underscores the importance of data ownership, enabling M&S to personalize messaging and adapt rapidly to changing customer behavior, impacting product offerings and pricing strategies.

This is not your parents’ M&S!

👀 Cracking the CMO Code

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🗣️ Let's not beat around the bush: the CMO often gets the short end of the stick in the C-suite. They're undervalued, underutilized, and misunderstood. Why? Because CMOs are expected to be bilingual; fluent in both marketing and business speak. They're in a perpetual battle to prove their worth to the broader organization.

But fear not! If you're in the marketing world, you've probably heard of Martin Lindstrom. If not, he's a global authority on consumer behavior, marketing, and neuroscience, shaping our industry for over two decades, and collaborating with brands from Uber to Lego.

Martin Lindstrom shared his wisdom on why the CMO role matters and how to solve this conundrum, along with insights on:

✅ Balancing creativity with data-driven science in marketing.

✅Unpacking Martin's concept of a brand's "immune system."

✅Reimagining the role of the CMO."

Check out the full episode below and hear more about:

Links below 👇




💘 Barbie's B2B Wisdom: 5 Must-Steal Lessons for Marketers
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🎀Now the dust has settled around the marketing madness of Barbie...

What marketing lessons can B2B marketers learn from the Barbie team?

🌸Use immersive experiences for your customers

🍬Collaborate and partner with relevant brands

👛Create the hype cycle for your business

🧜‍♀️Find the spokesperson for your brand

💗Bring customers into the brand

In the first of our contributor articles, The brilliant Melody Callaway, Head of Marketing Americas at Orange Business, breaks down the 5 key takeaways here 👇

Read More

🍴Rival Academy Returns

👷Ever wondered what the core principles, models, and practices of building successful challenger brands actually look like?

Well, that's why we created Rival Academy.

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📈Rival Academy is a one-day, in-person, small-group workshop designed to teach marketing leaders exactly what the best brands in the world are doing, and how they can apply it to their own brands and businesses.

Packed with actionable frameworks, you'll walk away with a complete plan to:

️͛Find and own a point of difference for your brand

️͛Build communications plans to reach and influence your target audience

️͛Develop distribution plans for owned, paid, and earned media channels

͛️Build an analytics and martech system to understand the effectiveness of your marketing activity

͛️Design a team structure, ways of working, and culture to attract and retain top talent

Rival Academy will be in London on 18th October 2023.

Seats are very limited, so reserve your spot on the link below:

❤️Rival Joins the B-Corp Revolution: A Business with a Heart

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💭 This feels like a good place to end this week’s edition.

Rival is officially a certified #BCorp, meeting high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. We’re excited to be joining a global community of businesses committed to positively impacting all people, communities, and the planet. It’s confirmation of what we’ve been working hard to achieve — using business as a force for good.

For our founders, this was always a key part of the plan from day one: Challenge and change our category as much as those of our clients. And while we’re still small, we wanted to do what we could to build a successful business AND an impactful business.

The B Corp application and certification is no joke. It’s taken us 18 months and a ton of work a massive thanks to our Ops Director, Jess Martin for leading the charge on this! For those who haven’t been through it, it is NOT AT ALL just a label. For those who are considering applying, check out this first article by Jess about the process. And we’ll be sharing more about our approach and journey in the next couple weeks.

Certifying is only the start of our journey — we’re on a mission to continue improving our impact in order to create an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy.

Have a thought on this topic? We’d Love to hear it.

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