By Claire West

Assistant Professor of Marketing Tamara Ansons says research backs Marks & Spencer’s ‘leading ladies’ campaign to revitalise the brand with its core audience.

The new campaign features a dozen of Britain’s most famous women including actress Dame Helen Mirren, Olympic medal winner Nicola Adams, ballerina Darcey Bussell, artist Tracey Emin and novelist Monica Ali.

Dr Ansons, of Warwick Business School, has researched the use of slim female images in advertising and found that the images can not only harm some women’s well-being but subconsciously turn women off the brand as well.

“Overall, the new campaign by Marks & Spencer suggests they have gained a more refined understanding of their consumers and have attempted to develop advertising content that is going to appeal to their target consumers,” said Dr Ansons.
“Indeed, M&S appears to realise that utilising female imagery that blatantly presents a thin model is not going to be well-received by every consumer group. By applying this insight to its ad campaign it appears to have revitalised the brand with its core target.”

The campaign will be officially launched on September 3, with artist Annie Leibovitz taking a series of photographs of the 12 ‘leading ladies’.

Dr Ansons says, strategically, her research supports Marks & Spencer’s use of the 12 ‘leading ladies’ rather than the traditional skinny model.

“Our research suggests that using these models could be more positively viewed by consumers compared to using the typical fashion models,” said Dr Ansons.

“Specifically, in our research we found that when thin models are featured along with brands, viewers may feel threatened by the idealised imagery, which results in the denigration of the female and more negative responses towards the featured brand.

“By featuring successful women in their campaign, M&S is not using threatening imagery that perpetuates the stereotypically thin female. Instead, M&S presents non-threatening female imagery that signals the diversity of successful women and in all likelihood results in more favourable responses towards the brand by avoiding the denigration that might have been triggered from using the typical fashion model.”

Dr Ansons added: “The new ‘leading ladies’ campaign by M&S is an attempt to revitalise their clothing range. Moreover, the campaign offers a fresh look to typical fashion advertising by featuring successful women in the ad instead of the typical fashion model. By doing so, M&S appears to be strategically targeting their core audience by using a diverse set of aspirational women, who are likely to inspire and appeal to women in their 40s.”