The John Lewis Brand: How and Why It Has Changed?
In 1864, John Lewis opened its flagship store on Oxford Street. A lot has changed since then; mesmerising Christmas ads; enhanced digitalisation and first class marketing has made the high street giant is an iconic model for the retail shopping experience.
People love that they know what they are getting with John Lewis, they know they will receive high quality products and excellent customer service. From one small Victorian store on Oxford Street, the retailer has grown to over 50 John Lewis stores, more than 300 Waitrose supermarkets across the UK and a huge 83,000+ permanent staff.
Recently, there has been a well-publicised change to their branding, much to people’s apprehension. We have outlined the facts, journey and thought process John Lewis may have gone through to make these changes, so you can decide what you really think of their new branding and values. Before we can discuss why these changes have happened, we need to look at the history of the brand to explore how they have got to where they are today.
History of the John Lewis Brand
‘Value, Assortment, Service and Honesty’. These were the main principles that the first store was based upon and that have been carried through the business ever since, with the current values sitting at ‘Value, Integrity and Vision’, matching perfectly to their moto ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’.
Traditionally, John Lewis has appealed strongly to the middle and upper class shoppers, however, the introduction of their ‘Value’ and ‘Essential’ ranges has allowed an expansion to a broader market.
Back in 1937, John Lewis launched their own brand merchandise, called ‘Jonell(e)’. John Lewis were the first department store group in the UK to have their own brand of products, however this ended in 2001 when the ‘Jonell(e)’ name was replaced by the ‘John Lewis’ name.
Until now, when we think of John Lewis we think quality, friendly, reliable and Christmas! Along with mulled wine, mince pies, stockings and wreaths, the John Lewis ads are awaited each year, with Moz the Monster, Monty the Penguin and Buster the Boxer being just a few of the fictional characters that have pulled on our festive heart strings.
From day one, John Lewis have always looked after their staff, rewarding them for their efforts, sharing their profits and continuing to build upon their skills, this is because all permanent staff members are partners in their business. This in turn ensures that their team have a great work ethic and want to nurture and treat each customer the way they wish to be treated themselves.
John Lewis has remained not only an esteemed brand, but a desirable organisation to work for. In March 2018 they topped the list of best UK retailers to work for – beating Lush, IKEA, Marks & Spencer and Clarks!
A Move to John Lewis & Partners
Combined with strategic changes in other areas of the business, John Lewis has now incorporated a rebrand that sees a change in name to ‘John Lewis & Partners’ and ‘Waitrose & Partners’ – this is a way of showing customers and prospects that John Lewis’ employees are at the heart of their business, enabling them to offer more personalised experiences for customers. The new rebrand also synergises and brings together the John Lewis and Waitrose brands, as previously, the two companies have remained relatively separate. This integration aims to create a single creative platform for both brands, in theory, decreasing overall spend on expenditure like advertising.
The new name change comes with a new logo, this is made up of the brand name with a lines in a variety of widths to the left in either green for Waitrose or black for John Lewis. Some would say that the old ‘Jonell(e)’ logo resembles the new rebrand of John Lewis, featuring the barcode style lines, coming away from the main logo.
The first of their new campaigns has been launched; the John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners television and cinema advert showcase their rebrand, performed to Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, with the main focus to communicate their more personal approach.
The ‘when you’re part of it, you put your heart into it’ strapline of the advert stands for John Lewis & Partners appreciating their staff members, the various stories and skills that they offer, proving that when employees feel valued, great things can happen.
Along with this TV and cinema advert, a print campaign and social media adverts that feature the hashtag of #wearepartners will run too. Both John Lewis and Waitrose websites have been updated, lorries are being reprinted, carrier bags, uniforms, trolleys and internal signs have been updated with new logos and branding. This is the largest marketing campaign John Lewis have ever carried out. The overall campaign is great at highlighting the John Lewis way of life, shedding life on the partners that jointly own the business and how it ensures that they go the extra mile for customers each day.
Why Have They Changed?
In March 2018 John Lewis vowed to reinvest in their shopping and customer experience, create new innovative online and offline experiences, along with a faster pace, due to their 22% decline in profit compared to the previous year. This decision was made because of a restrained customer demand, political uncertainty and general inflation in the British economy. The decrease in profit is largely due to their hard to keep up with ‘never knowingly undersold’ pledge. Other retailers are having to discount heavily due to the economic crisis and increase in e-commerce like Amazon, in turn resulting in a decrease to staff bonus and overall employment rate at John Lewis as their profits too were falling. Recently we have seen it hit House of Fraser and Debenhams the hardest.
Sometimes the best marketing is all about honesty, less about the products and services on offer and profit margin, and more about the people that make it all happen at all levels of the business – store staff, call centres, office members, delivery drivers, manufacturers, suppliers and customers. However, recently since going live with the new rebrand and campaigns John Lewis have announced a 99% drop in profit for the first half of 2018. This is due to the increase in e-commerce websites and decrease to economic activity which is meaning retailers, including John Lewis are having to discount products.
John Lewis has recently said that they plan to save up to £500 million a year in the next three years, this is to invest in products and service innovation, with hope to in turn rebuild their profitability as a business. Along with also trying to seek cost savings of up to £500 million to balance out their finances. With their partners (staff) continuing to be at the heart, they will conduct a review of their pension scheme to give partners better benefits of working with John Lewis & Partners. Along with a pension scheme, they will be investing in their partners’ skills and product knowledge, with extra training and courses that will in turn deliver improved customer service. Overall John Lewis will focus on unique, innovative products, personal service and new services to offer.
However, we are now coming up to John Lewis’ seasonal busy period, it will be interesting to see the numbers after their typically successful Christmas period in comparison to previous festive seasons.
In the coming months, labels from their own brand products will be updated, with the plan for all products, services and marketing material materials to be totally rebranded over within five years.
Both the John Lewis and Waitrose brands are making more efforts to join together as one synergising brand, loyalty is one common ground both businesses hold. In the next few months, they will be rolling out their combined loyalty schemes, at first a trial being sent to 600,000 customers. This loyalty scheme will be one single card that offers the same benefits that both cards previously held, just reiterating the connection between John Lewis and Waitrose.
Each year, we wait in anticipation for the John Lewis Christmas advert to be aired before, so we can really get into the spirit, and this year will be no different. This year it has been reported that Sir Elton John will be hired at a huge cost of £5m to record a custom rendition of his famous ‘Your Song’ at Pinewood Studios in London.
The new rebrand has not completely changed the company’s core values, the key messages are still quality products and excellent customer service across the John Lewis and Waitrose brands due to their staff member being partners within the brands.
Looking to Reposition your Organisation’s Brand?
Contact Generate UK to achieve the full potential of your brand. From a simple refresh to a complete re-work. We have worked with some amazing brands helping them develop their brand through research, strategy, ongoing brand consultancy, visual design to implementation.