Friday, 29 May 2015

M&S: good marketing. Or was it?

It’s always fun when Marks and Spencer’s decides to offer tasters of some exciting new line in its Food Halls.

The other day I was introduced to its latest pork pies. First I was offered a sample topped, as far as I could see, with chutney.

“The topping really enhances the flavour of the pie,” the friendly woman dispensing the goodies pointed out, and she was right. “And the crust is just right, exactly crusty enough without being hard.” And she was right about that too.

“What about these ones?” I asked, pointing to samples topped with something more golden in colour. “Apple sauce?”

“Indeed,” she replied, immediately offering me one to try, “and I think you’ll find the slight sharpness of the apple is exactly the right complement to the meat.”

She was right again. She knew her stuff. And so did M&S which had made, in my view, an excellent choice in adding these products to its already impressive range.

Now, it’s often said that you should never go to a supermarket when hungry, because you’re bound to come out with far more than you need. I knew what I was looking for from M&S, and it didn’t include pork pies. On the other hand, I’d been at a meeting which had taken me a long way into the lunch hour. Something to eat? Struck me as a good idea. Something appetising? Even better.

M&S Food Hall: far too temptation-charged for a hungry visitor
Oscar Wilde could resist anything but temptation. Like him, I succumbed.

“They’re excellent. I think I’ll take some. Where are they?”

For the first time in our conversation, I saw her uncomfortable.

“Ah,” she said, “we don’t actually have them in the store yet. We just wanted you to know about them.”

Know about them? It’s always seemed to me that the only reason to get a potential customer to know about a product is in the hope they’ll buy it. Adding to the general store of human knowledge? I’m really not sure that’s a grocer’s role.

M&S remains one of my favourite shops and I’ll keep right on going there. But it’s clear the initials really don’t stand for Marketing and Sales. In fact, it feels like Marketing had given up on communicating with Sales at all.

The were good and I want to say the tasting was good marketing. But marketing that doesn’t lead to sales? That sounds more like good effort, wasted.

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