Mark & Spencer has upped its game on social media in recent years, creating a presence across social platforms to successfully drive brand awareness and increase digital engagement. From virtual influencers to ‘magic coffee’ – here’s a look at what M&S has been doing on social.

Experimenting with social advertising

With platforms like TikTok offering new advertising opportunities, M&S has been keen to invest, using ads to create relevancy and drive interest from younger users.

In 2021, M&S put a humorous spin on its ‘not just any’ tagline for its Valentine’s Day ad campaign, which saw the venerable retailer partner with three popular TikTok creators. The InFeed, TopView, and Brand Premium ads showcased the M&S ‘Dine In’ meal deal, with embedded links enabling users to click-through to find out more.

According to TikTok, the ads generated more than 18.5 million impressions, with an average watch time of more than four seconds. Additionally, the campaign created a 15%+ click-through rate, driving significant traffic to the M&S website.

The campaign is a great example of how to utilise social platforms to experiment with different styles of content and seek out new audiences. It would be unlikely that M&S would create such an ad on TV, for instance, but TikTok’s focus on fun, creative, and more authentic viral video (featuring creators who helped popularise the app) enabled the brand to do just that – without disrupting its core brand image.

Innovating with influencers – real and virtual

While Marks & Spencer uses well-known celebrities to front advertising, its influencer campaigns – stemming from its ‘Insider’ programme – are largely build around small and mid-size influencers with expertise in fashion, beauty, and homeware. They also happen to be M&S employees, including visual merchandisers and beauty assistants, essentially giving them ‘insider’ knowledge of how to style and use M&S products.

According to M&S, the 13-strong group has produced some of the brand’s best performing social content, returning around 30% higher engagement than external influencer programmes.

In October 2022, M&S took the bold move to launch a virtual influencer into the mix. Mira, which stands for ‘Marks & Spencer, Influencer, Reality, Augmented,’ was created as part of M&S’ “focus on experimenting with emerging trends and new technologies,” with the aim of building a connection with a younger audience. M&S follows the likes of Pretty Little Thing, who launched its own virtual model in early 2022, as well as luxury brands like Prada and Dior who have also experimented with the idea.

M&S launches its first virtual influnecer, ‘Mira’. Image via M&S


Interestingly, the reaction to Mira has been mixed, with many consumers criticising M&S’ decision to promote a computer-generated image rather than real women. Others have suggested that the idea of a virtual influencer is too forced, with the retail brand merely jumping on the bandwagon rather than offering anything of real value.

Regardless, the initiative reflects M&S’ clear desire to innovate on social, and to create content in a more agile way. Indeed, a big benefit of virtual influencers is greater control and speed. As Anna Braithwaite, Director of Marketing for Clothing & Home, said: “A virtual influencer means we can be more fleet of foot in responding to trends and conversations and opens possibilities in both the physical and virtual world in the future.”

While Mira was more of an experiment than a permanent fixture, M&S’ Insider program – using real life influencers from within the fashion retail world – continues to drive positive engagement for the brand. This is particularly the case on Instagram, where some M&S influencers – with an average audience of between 20,000 to 50,000 followers – continuously advocate for the brand and its products.

Tapping into new audiences with viral content

As well as M&S ‘Insiders’ program, M&S also generates consistent engagement from organic video content created by individual stores and their staff.

The concept initially began at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as a way of informing customers about rules, regulations, and stock in physical stores. Sharry Cramond, marketing director of M&S Food told the Guardian, “When we set this up to tell people about pasta and toilet roll, we had no idea we would be standing here today with 600 Facebook accounts.”

Now, M&S posts videos created by store staff across social platforms including Instagram and TikTok. The Guardian reports that M&S garners around three million views on its store social media pages every week, with its stores in Yate, Bexhill and Gloucester all generating more than 500,000 views a month. M&S Romford – which has over 94,000 followers – is another stand-out store, with its Halloween video generating 300,000 views on TikTok. The Romford store’s popularity has been so great that M&S chose to partner with the store to release its own Christmas song in 2021 and 2022, with proceeds given to a local charity.

By tapping into viral trends on platforms like TikTok, and creating a fresh image built around fun and irreverent humour, M&S continues to build high levels of engagement with the strategy, as well as drive interest in local stores.


Halloween ready at M&S Romford ???? #mandslocal #marksandspencer #halloween #StopScammerTime #fyp #fypシ #fypage #fypp #trickortreats

♬ original sound – EX7STENCE™

Promoting value ranges to change brand perceptions

Finally, social platforms like TikTok have enabled M&S to fuel organic user generated content, whereby videos are typically centred around ‘food hauls’ and other popular content trends.

One example of this is reviews and food hauls – increasingly of the brand’s ‘Remarksable Value’ range – which position M&S in relation to other value-focused retailers, and enable the brand to drive awareness of its lower price products.

In its Christmas trading statement, M&S stated that investment in Remarksable has resulted in strong volume growth, with the value range now in over 20% of baskets.

Alongside this, M&S also encourages user generated content around new product launches, such as its ‘Magic Coffee’ – an Australian-inspired coffee that claims to have the perfect ratio of milk to coffee. As well as promoting the launch on its own channels, M&S encouraged users to post videos showcasing their own reviews, helping to create additional buzz and awareness about the launch – and the brand’s wider goal to promote its line of in-store cafes.


Replying to @Nathan Gibney weekly food shop haul as ‘DINKS’ but make it marks and spencers… i am SHOCKED at the price!!! ???????????????????? #marksandspencer #marksandspencerfood #foodhaul #foodshoppinghaul #foodshop #foodshopwithme #marksandspencerhaul #dinks #dualincomenokids @Marks & Spencer #shopwithme #marksandspencers

♬ original sound – Lucy Kalice

In conclusion…

Now more than halfway through its ‘Shaping the Future’ digital transformation plan, M&S has turned around some of its negative brand perceptions. In May 2022, the retail brand reported that, just three years previously, the majority of customers thought that M&S was no longer relevant. Now, “on almost all customer metrics we see renewed interest and approval,” said former CEO Steve Rowe.

Alongside investment in digital CX, social has certainly played a part in changing these perceptions, and is now an important marketing channel for the brand. With activity largely geared around influencers and user-generated content, M&S has carved out an entirely new audience on social channels, building fun and relevant brand content.