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  • Writer's pictureAlyssa Chen

Part I: What is Your Personal Identity?

Updated: May 10, 2021

Recently a TV advertising attracts my eyes for its strong attitude and the message- say NO to ordinary. Literally, I couldn’t move my eyes away while it’s on, and was so eager to find out what brand behind this ad is.

However, I got totally astonished- and perhaps felt a bit deceived- after realizing the brand who owns the ad. The mood is more or less like when one expects so much with romantic hope to meet her dreaming cute long-time cyber friend who has been writing her many beautiful poems. At the end, she finds out it’s a granpa behind the work!

But why do I feel this way?

I mean, it is no doubt that this advertising is very well executed. It illustrates an enticing attitude to encourage all to embrace the good experience and choices in life- through the slogan “spending it well”- and say no to ordinary. The brand behind this ad- Marks & Spencer- is also decent, well trusted and liked for its good product quality under accessible price, and the reputable service.

The issue is, the personality that I perceived from the ad does not really connect with Marks & Spencer in my impression at all!

To avoid having missed some market updates, I googled the recent news about Marks & Spencer and visited its Central store in Hong Kong. From the news, it says that the brand launches a new brand slogan “Spend It Well” and expect to revive its business through a series of dynamic marketing campaign.

However, when I visited its Central store, only the food area links me to the message in the ad (no ordinary, spend it well!) for its current clear focus on “Authentic Italian Experience”, the positioning on 100% fairtrade coffee, gluten-free wheat range, and the well-organized display. The rest categories in the store- clothes, accessories, home..etc- remains ordinary, trying-to-be-fashionable yet a bit banal and not energetic at all.

It quickly triggers me with a thought: everyone wants to look cool, both brands and individuals. That’s why companies invest on marketing and slogan to promote attractive brand value, while individuals chase after fashion to create a certain image we expect others to perceive. However, lots of time, people forget the most fundamental step before all these efforts is to recognize and identify who you are.

The identity means brand DNA for companies. To individuals, it means what life has given to you- the good, the bad, the ugly and everything. That’s where the style should be built on top. To make the statement works, meanwhile, it also has to come as a package- not just a slogan, an ad, or changing one’s hairstyle, makeup and outfits!

If I were Marks & Spencer, to facilitate this marketing investment, I would take two actions. First, rather than strongly claiming “say NO to ordinary,” I would emphasize “being true to yourself” on the TV ad instead. Admit that being ordinary people is OK (say NO to being pretentious, say NO to seeking for mainstream success, say NO to chase something fashionable yet uncomfortable…etc), but we should always insist choosing things with good quality to pamper ourselves. Ordinary may seems unattractive. To me, however, it can be interpreted to be down-to-ground, friendly, essential and classy too. This authentic approach could connect with more people in my opinion.

Second, if Marks & Spencer insists presenting a “cool” attitude on the ad, it also needs to implement this attitude to all business aspects consistently- from the store design, product offer, visual merchandising and the grooming & service of the store staffs. Nowadays the rising of online shopping makes it even more important for brick-and-mortal stores to create THE EXPERIENCE for customers, which translates into an impression and belief. To build this new identity, nevertheless, it takes time and will only succeed if the company can persist.

EXPERIENCE matters more and more to customers in offline stores

Pedder on Scotts Singapore

Under the strong competition, it is not easy for brands to be always faithful to its brand DNA in business executions. Changing a designer or an overwhelming fashion trend may easily seduce brands to distract from its original positioning for commercial concern. Louis Vuitton being one of the few best practices to me in this topic. Had worked in this brand for few years, I witness how it values and insists the perfect business implementation all around its core value “Travel & Craftsmanship”: from product offer (almost all bags with stories linked with this core value), collection development (in my time, there was always a April-May capsule across all product categories with the theme around traveling.) store design, advertising (there’s a series of core value ad, which is viewed more or equally important as seasonal product ads!) and events. The outlook of the collections may vary by seasons and the change of designers, yet the story from the brand is kept the same anywhere and anytime. That becomes the formula to be sustainable for a brand.

Louis Vuitton Core Value Ads

In my next post, I will continue this topic by extending it to personal identity and style building. Hope you’ll like it!


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