Have you seen the big Christmas TV ad from House of Fraser?

No? Neither have I. Like NEVER!!

John Lewis have nailed it again. Well done to all the teams involved in pulling this off.

Personally, I think it’s one of the best yet. Bang on message, bang on brand, it has a hook, it has a device to thread into all other marketing channels. I simply LOVE it. It ticks all the boxes of a well-executed plan.

(Although JL were not first!! Those of you old enough might remember a certain Reg Dwight appearing our Royal Mail campaign many years ago……who was with me on that team…?)

What a contrast between John Lewis & House of Fraser. Both very similar business models.

One riding high, and one being picked apart in the salvage yard by Mr Ashley.

What lessons can we learn from a well-known and established UK brand like House of Fraser?

When businesses like Woolworths & Comet eventually fell victim, what did their brand ACTUALLY represent? What did they mean to you as a customer?

I’m not suggesting that poor internal management & poor profitability do not play their part in the collapse of big business, but when you don’t give your customers a reason to visit your store or website, the P&L only heads in one direction.

John Lewis have pretty much the same business model as HoF, yet they keep their head above water. Plus, they are a very well-respected brand by customers and prospective/non-customers. (I’m yet to meet anyone who actually dislikes John Lewis!). It doesn’t matter what you stand for. You don’t have to be high-end to be respected and make a profit. (Look at what made Mr Ashley enough cash to buy HoF in the first place).

Think about “Joe’s Greasy Spoon Café” round the corner. It might not be your ideal choice for breakfast every day, but at least you know what the he stands for and you understand & respect what the business/brand represents.

When you’re hungover and need a bacon sandwich, you’re not going to POD are you?

See the pattern emerging?

Even as an infrequent visitor to John Lewis stores and their website, when it comes to major appliance purchases, I normally get my TV/Tumble Dryer/Washing Machine from John Lewis. House of Fraser doesn’t even get on my consideration list.

Yes, I “could” get it £10 cheaper from an online-only retailer, but John Lewis provide me with that customer satisfaction of knowing they will deliver it, install it, not make a mess, and leave without a trace.

I’m not suggesting House of Fraser do not provide that level of service, but what’s important is they DO NOT provide me with this level of confidence & trust through their ads & comms.

Whether you regularly purchase from John Lewis or not, or like me, once or twice a year, you will have a perception of the brand, and I bet it’s reasonably positive around customer service & satisfaction. You know they are not always the cheapest, but you are happy to pay that small premium for satisfaction and no hassle.

Now think about House of Fraser. What does that business mean to you? A department store. Yes. Anything else? ....…..er….no, not really.

At the time Woolworths went down, all they were really known for were Pick’n’Mix. I’m sorry, but you can run that from a 50 sq ft village shop. You don’t need hundreds of expensive high st stores to sell £5 worth of sweets.

My dear old Dad was a truck driver, and knew nothing about marketing, but he knew you had to spend money to make money. (Quote from many games of Monopoly as a kid!!)

With the average tenure of a CEO & Marketing Director at it’s lowest for years, too many brands are scared of making that long-term investment. Which is really sad for brands & business as they constantly chase their tail for immediate sales.

My advice? If your brand is a tail chaser, try to dedicate at least 10-15% of your time on the long game. And I mean the 5+ year plan.....not the next FY.

Be brave.

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