Successful Influencer Marketing: Holly Willoughby meets M&S

by Catriona Quinn

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

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A lesson from one of the country’s biggest retailers in influencer marketing

M&S PR photograph of Holly Willoughby as part of a successful influencer marketing campaign.

IT’S NO secret that Marks and Spencer, not unlike other retailers, is struggling to keep up with the fast pace of fashion in the twenty-first century.

With store closures and dropping sales, Markies is very publicly suffocating under the weight of modern-day retailing. Chief Executive Steve Rowe reported earlier this year that clothing sales alone have dropped by 2.7% in the first half of 2018.

It’s tackling an outdated image, an ageing population, perceptions of being expensive and unaffordable and more online retail competition than ever before. Ouch.

So, what does one do when your entire brand image needs an overhaul? Enter Holly Willoughby – British TV royalty and fashion icon.


Why Holly?

With more than four million followers on Instagram alone, there’s no denying Holly’s reach as an influencer. She’s that girl that you don’t know but you really want to be friends with.

Holly’s been known to dig little gems of fashion out of the high street and turn them into sell-out successes by simply posting an #OOTD (that’s outfit of the day, in case you didn’t know) on her very popular Instagram account. It’s a bit like the Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle effect.

Plus, the This Morning presenter is a working mum with a very good sense of style – which is a brand image Marks definitely want to align themselves with right now.

She’s even already coined her own hashtag: #HWstyle.

M&S PR photograph of Holly Willoughby as part of a successful influencer marketing campaign.


What’s the big deal?

It’s important to highlight here that Marks and Spencer has not reinvented the wheel. It has not even done anything particularly difficult. Done right, a collaboration between brand and influencer really can be pretty painless, providing they work in harmony with each other.

Holly hasn’t had to get involved in any intensive design process. She has very simply chosen her favourite pieces from the AW18 collection, which then become “Holly’s Must-Haves”.

M&S winter and Christmas marketing is all about the ‘must-haves’ which is also quite a clever move – you always want something more if someone else has it.

And these clothes have flown off of the shelves. Quite literally, I couldn’t get my hands on anything in the first collection about a week after the launch. When I did see the very few items left on the rack, they weren’t too expensive either (another image that M&S is clearly trying to shake).

Plus, the retailer’s Instagram following has increased by 100,000 since September when Holly was first announced as a brand ambassador. In the run-up to the second ‘Must-Haves’ collection, they were even offering an exclusive item available to buy ahead of the full launch only through Instagram. It’s sold out now. No surprises there.

M&S PR photograph of Holly Willoughby as part of a successful influencer marketing campaign.


Rating the experience

In the face of ‘fast fashion’, M&S is certainly holding up. Buying staple pieces over cheaper and poorer quality alternatives is definitely becoming trendier, with many choosing to invest in their wardrobes without the long-term damage to their bank balances (or, on a bigger scale, the wider environment).

With the introduction of Holly, it has also successfully improved its brand image and digital presence – which has translated into sales. Result.

But perhaps the lesson learnt here is more than just Influencer Marketing for Dummies. The current offering in clothing is far too broad and shallow, which is something that neither I or Holly Willoughby can fix.

In the meantime, I’ll just be scouring the internet looking for ‘Holly’s Must-Haves’ that have become ‘Holly’s Did-Haves.’

Looking to speak with experts in influencer marketing?

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Cat Catriona Quinn PR agency Edinburgh Holyrood PR

Catriona Quinn

Account Executive Catriona Quinn is part of the multi-award-winning PR team at Holyrood PR, a leading Scottish PR agency

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