Back in the 1990’s.

Working for Universities and Enterprise Agencies.

I told stories about brand.

Even before I knew what brand was.


I told stories about how a clearly positioned brand would influence the behaviour of customers.

And a study I came across that communicated this really well.

Was about littering.



In the early 1990’s.

The two places in the UK that people were least likely to drop litter.

Were churches.

And Marks & Spencer.

Things Change. 

And this is particularly interesting to me.

Because of how things change.

And because 30 years later.

In stark contrast to consumer perception and behaviours in 1990.

The 2019 M&S in Kings Cross is like actually being stood in a great big fucking litter bin.

Observations and Advice.

Some observations and advice for the great big litter bin called M&S in London’s Kings Cross Station.

  1. If, when you are unloading big trollies, you spill sticky stuff on the floor, clean it up instead of continuing to unload more bottles of sticky stuff. That way, customers don’t walk the sticky stuff around the store.
  2. If you have a really small M&S store, don’t have more than one pallet of stuff unloading at the same time. That way, we stand a better chance of getting a ‘Premium Shopping Experience’ as opposed to a ‘Being Stood in a Fucking Warehouse’ experience.
  3. Train ‘back-of-house’ people so they realise that when they wander ‘front-of-house’ (unloading pallets or whatever) they are no longer ‘back-of-house’. Train them so that they appreciate the fact that they are contributing to brand perception.  For instance, when a customer (me) asks them, “Excuse me, are all these drinks included in the meal deal?” – they answer more elaborately than, “No”. Before turning away to carry on unloading pallets.
  4. There is a difference between, ‘Reduced items’ and, ‘Items that are in such a shit state that they should be thrown away or redistributed in some sensible humanitarian way (but not sold for actual money)’.

The Crescendo.

Anyhow, here’s the crescendo of all of the above.

I am standing at the self-serve terminals with my ‘meal deal’ and some reduced melon slices.

I scan the items to reveal that the meal deal is not a £5 meal deal at all.

But £8.04 for a sandwich, a bar of somethingorother and a bottle of fizzy somethingorother.

I’ve done something wrong.

But as I believe in good design.

I should not have been able to do something wrong.

However, I decide to let this go.

Until I scan the melon slices.

Turning them on their side.

To introduce the barcode to the scanning thingy.

And at the same time splattering melon juice all over the checkout terminal.

Because the package had burst.

Brand & Behaviour.

I ended my visit by gently laying all of my unpaid for items down in the sticky mess I’d made.

Picking up my bags.

And leaving.

I was not proud of this.

But what I said earlier is true.

The bit about how a clearly positioned brand influences the behaviour of customers.

M&S, these days, is not a clearly positioned brand.

And this is manifesting on the front line.

And it’s affecting my behaviour.

Because M&S has shifted from the second least likely place to litter in the UK.

To the biggest litter bin in King’s Cross Station.

In a little under 30 years.

‘Quite an achievement.

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