M&S Food Case Study

​We are proud to have partnered with M&S for 16 years. Over this time we revolutionized food advertising by founding ‘food porn’, which embedded itself into the national consciousness and transformed the M&S Food business.

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Oct 31, 2018


M&S was under increasing pressure from the discounters. Lidl and Aldi were continuing their meteoric rise and the rest of the category was responding by driving down prices. We were briefed to develop a new brand strategy to develop M&S’ value perceptions and maintain revenue in an increasingly aggressive market.  

However, as we continued to push boundaries for M&S, we made a case for the company to further pursue the premium positioning we had built for it over a decade through ‘food porn’ rather than chase the price wars in the supermarkets. Our objective therefore evolved to: deliver one additional shopping visit per year for every existing core customer. 


Instead of competing with the discounters in the race to the bottom on price, we took a reframing strategy to the Board that elevated the M&S brand into a category of one. We positioned M&S as a unique food retailer that has the passion, creativity and expertise of a specialist, but the footprint of a supermarket. 

We defined this as a ‘Foodhall for All’. Once agreed by the Board, we helped M&S to refocus all of their activity around this positioning, from digital strategy, to search strategy, the website, the Cook app, visual identity, store branding, CRM and advertising. 

Our creative platform: “Adventures In” permeated across the whole business. It invited the customer to discover a world of inspirational, mouth-watering food. It promoted fresh ingredients as well as culinary techniques in a new and innovative way that showed the craft, expertise and artistry that goes into M&S Food.

A truly multi-platform idea, we worked with a broad cross-section of stakeholders from food technologists to store designers. This led to a company-wide programme of change, including a new visual identity and redesigned store layout. 

Communications followed the customer journey with film, press, radio, online, instore, and social activation via celebrated influencers and food vloggers.

M&S - M&S Food - 'Adventures In Imagination' from VMLY&R London on Vimeo.


The campaign was transformational, surpassing all targets and expectations. It outperformed the category on key metrics including awareness, brand linkageand intention to purchase, and is used by Instagram and Youtube as a best-in-class case study.

Most importantly we surpassed our outcome objective, delivering 1.4 incremental visits per customer in the first 12 months (against a target of 1.0). Instead of joining the ranks of the discount food retailers and diluting its brand, M&S found a new way of delivering premium to its customers. Delivering an estimated ROI of £8.30 for every £1 investment, sales grew at 4% in a declining market. M&S didn’t just outperform the market, it redefined itself.

M&S FOOD Case Study from VMLY&R London on Vimeo.

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VMLY&R London

VMLY&R is a global marketing agency with more than 7,000 employees worldwide with principal offices in Kansas City, London, New York, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore and Sydney. VMLY&R works with client partners including Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Dell, Ford, Office Depot, PepsiCo, Pfizer and Wendy’s.

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