Media360: John Lewis marketer Craig Inglis on surprising consumers

Marketing caught up with Craig Inglis, marketing director at John Lewis, after his session at Media360 to quiz him about the brand's image and plans and fish for news on Apple's rumoured TV plans.

The Marketing Society's current Marketer of the Year had just shared the stage with James Murphy, the founding partner of the retailer’s ad agency Adam & Eve, to tell the story of the changes they have made to the brand.

Inglis explained to delegates that after joining in 2008 he wanted to build on the retailer's established penetration and reputation for quality and services by getting core shoppers to visit more frequently and give them an emotional connection to the brand.

With Murphy revealing that customers at the time thought of the brand as "a middle-aged man in a bowler hat", we asked Inglis to describe how he thought they now see the brand.

"I wouldn’t like to make an analogy in terms of another person because I don’t think we are as straightforward as that," he said. "But I think they think of us in a more expansive way. I think we’ve surprised them.

"They now understand that we are in fashion and beauty, more feminine categories and that we're there for more parts of their life than we were before."

The transformation has been achieved in good part thanks to press campaigns and a clutch of TV ads, most recently Christmas 2011’s 'The Long Wait', whose power has made up for their infrequency.

Could this affinity with TV lead John Lewis into ad-funded programming, which has been in vogue with some brands in recent years?

"We just haven’t got to it," Inglis said. "We've had a pretty busy few years and as I said in my presentation we’ve had a lot to do.

"John Lewis doesn’t have a long history in marketing and so there were other things to get done. It’s definitely not a question of we’re not interested in ad-funded programming. It could work for us."

Inglis also confirmed the brand would not be advertising on TV around the Jubilee, unlike rivals such as Marks & Spencer.

However, as reported last week, it is planning to get to grips with radio, a medium it has traditionally neglected.

Finally, we fished to see what Inglis could tell us about Apple's rumoured assault on the TV set market given John Lewis’ high-end electronics retail offering.

But he claimed he was not in on any secrets. "If you know Apple like I do, as a retailer of Apple products, they tell us nothing," he said. "We will not know very much until consumers know. We will definitely not know until a day or two before.

"I hope it is coming. It could be quite exciting."

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