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How a 147 year-old brand re-gained its relevance

November 30, 2011

UK department store retailer John Lewis was crowned marketer of the year, for the second year running, by The Marketing Society.

It’s just reward for the brand’s commitment to re-engineer itself to be relevant to today’s shopper.

The brand has been determined to re-position itself in a world where it’s challenged on all sides and its Marketing Director openly admits its internal CRM systems are 15 years behind the leaders in the retail space.

What’s so interesting about John Lewis’ success is that it’s been primarily driven by television and a couple of iconic and very powerful TV spots; last year’s focused on women and this year on kids.

While the brand runs a bunch of retail TV, it’s these brand spots that have shifted the perception, they demonstrate the brand gets people and take an elevated stance to play on higher order emotions, well beyond on what you expect from most retailers.

Always A Woman- 2010

Christmas Campaign 2011

It’s surprising that in the day of sophisticated new media options John Lewis used the power of an “old fashioned” medium to present themselves in a new way and leveraged social media to give their TV buy more power.

What’s worth admiring is how this has all been calculated and planned; the brand has taken a well-thought out, dare one say, strategic, approach to re-positioning itself.

It started out with a mission to be the UK’s best loved retailer and focused in on the soul of the brand, its promise to consumers “Never Knowingly Undersold”…which it updated as shown below…

“Never Knowingly Undersold is our lifelong commitment to giving you the best value through great products, at great prices, supported by great service.

We know price is really important, and that´s why we put so much effort into getting it right. We check and match the online and shop prices of our high street competitors, and when we match a national price, this applies in all our shops and on our website. We even match competitors’ sale prices. For John Lewis own brand products, our buyers are charged with making sure we offer the best quality for the price in the market.

Our commitment to value is about much more than highly competitive prices, it´s about all those extra things that are worth a lot – like expert and impartial advice, or feeling confident that the product you´ve just bought will last. It might even be the knowledge that we´re responsible in our sourcing.

We truly believe Never Knowingly Undersold is as important today as it was when we introduced it over 85 years ago. After all, value is something that should last a lifetime.

So, if you see or buy a product from us and find it cheaper with a high street competitor (that excludes online-only or mail order businesses such as Dixons, Amazon or, who don’t have shops), as long as their service conditions are comparable, such as delivery charges and guarantee terms, then we´ll match that price for you when you buy, or refund the difference for up to 28 days afterwards if you’ve already purchased.”

Importantly, it’s not just about ads, the brand has also strengthened multichannel operations and CRM, made concerted efforts to improve the experience in stores and introduced a new brand of smaller format stores.

To accomplish all of this, the brand has had to move fast and importantly take risks that have forced it out of its comfort zone, but these risks appear to have produced their; obviously the retailer is winning a number of awards, but the work is working and producing very impressive sales results.

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