House of Fraser

House of Fraser’s marketing boss is bringing in a new marketing plan that will prioritise original content and “hyper-local” out-of-home over its previously preferred route of TV, as he aims to get the brand in front of a more clearly-defined shopper.

David Walmsley joined the retailer as chief customer officer six months ago, inheriting what he described to The Drum as a “theoretical” strategy that tried to appeal to too many people.

“The definition of the House of Fraser customer [when I joined], was a little…confused. We had six different customer segments, which might get direct marketers excited but doesn’t do much to mobilise teams or bring a clear understanding of who our customer is,” Walmsley recently explained.

Of these multiple segments, House of Fraser’s key demographic was previously thought to be “much younger”. Revisiting its most recent advertising highlights the commitment it had to attracting this crowd, namely with a big-budget music video-style Christmas campaign.

Looking to simplify things, Walmsley embarked on a massive research project upon arriving and identified one ‘core’ customer which the whole company– including the marketing function – is now rebuilding against.

Dubbed ‘Jo’ – “the most common name in our database” – she is a degree-educated mum, “the chief executive of a household” which has an income four times the national average and someone who “falls for the perfectionism of Instagram but gets annoyed at herself for doing so.”

This customer is the same one that Marks & Spencer (M&S), John Lewis or Next might go after. Indeed, the strategy might sound strikingly familiar to that of main rival M&S, where Walmsley served as digital director for five years. Last year it embarked on a major overhaul of its business to put the woman it described as ‘Mrs M&S’ at the heart of every decision it made – from what it stocks to where it advertises.

But Walmsley believes those same retailers are targeting this female demographic as a mum first, woman second; by doing the reverse he believes the retailer can carve itself out a new place in the market.

“It came to us time and again that no one talks to [her] directly about who [she] is and where [she] is going with her life. This is increasingly rich terrain for our dialogue with our customer,” he said.

Forgetting ‘pool party in Ibiza’ marketing

Off the back of the heavy lifting to redefine the customer, House of Fraser has repositioned its marketing away from what it described as “pool party in Ibiza” to something a bit more sophisticated.

The media-plan will similarly be reinvigorated, with plans to potentially take a step back from blasting messages out on TV and instead “hyper-target”.

“I’m actively looking at whether I want to do TV or not,” Walmsley continued. “Billboards don’t sound like the most exciting thing in the world we’ve identified those in our catchment area…