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Awards case study: Really B2B’s campaign for M&S Corporate Gifts wins gold for three awards

Looking to end 2019 on a high, M&S Corporate Gifts wanted a strong multi-channel campaign to reach its enterprise audience and drive an increase in sales revenue of gift cards and eCards.

Although a globally-recognised brand, the competition for corporate gifting is rapidly increasing, so an impactful and integrated strategy was needed to cut through the noise of a crowded marketplace and reinforce M&S Corporate Gifts’ status as the go-to partner for corporate gifting.

A propensity modelling exercise allowed Really B2B to truly understand M&S’ enterprise customers and prospects and adapt the campaign messaging and segmentation accordingly, to create a theme and strategy that resonated with the decision-makers who are notoriously hard to reach.

This insight shaped the ‘Be Unforgettable’ campaign theme, which was bought to life through both a core and key strategy, consisting of high-impact direct mail, insightful thought-leadership content, digital and inside sales to nurture prospects through to qualified sales opportunities.

To date, the campaign has generated 1,575% return on investment and almost £2 million confirmed sales revenue. What’s more, year-on-year sales have jumped by 81%, completely surpassing the campaign objective.

About the client company

M&S Corporate Gifts is the business arm of retail giant, Marks and Spencer. Supporting their clients, they offer a range of gift cards and e-codes for both employee benefits and customer retention/acquisition incentives.

For over 20 years (and with a group turnover of £10.6 billion), their brand reputation, combined with unrivalled expertise and vast product range, ensures their thousands of clients, across a range of industries, feel safe in the knowledge that they’re supported by one of the UK’s most-loved brands.

Strategy – broader business issues the company is facing

Standing out:

Although a globally-recognised brand, the competition for corporate gifting is rapidly increasing. M&S needed a strong campaign message to cut through the noise of a crowded marketplace and reinforce their status as the go-to partner for corporate gifting.

Capitalise on Christmas:

With the Christmas period always a key focus for retailers, M&S needed a strong, integrated strategy in place to leverage the season and drive increased sales.

Deep dive into the data:

Targeting a broad audience, it was imperative that M&S had a clear understanding of their customers and prospects to align their campaign segmentation and messaging, ensuring relevancy.

Objectives of the campaign

Business objective:

To engage with enterprise businesses over the 2019 Christmas period and deliver a 33% sales uplift from 2018.

Marketing objectives:

To get under the skin of M&S’ customers and prospects and use this insight to inform a data-led segmentation strategy; to develop a high-impact, integrated campaign that resonates with the audience and drives opportunities for M&S’ sales team; to create an impactful key account strategy to cut through the noise and engage hard-to-reach decision-makers; to measure and directly attribute revenue generated from the campaign.

The target audience

The 21,000-strong database was made up of UK businesses with 500+ employees, within the following sectors:

  • Automotive.
  • Manufacturing.
  • Telecoms and broadband.
  • Construction.
  • Transport and travel.
  • Advertising and marketing.

Campaign segmentation by job function:

Client/customer-focused gifting:

Job functions:

  • Sales.
  • Marketing.
  • Customer service operations.

Potential uses for gift cards:

  • Acquisition.
  • Retention.
  • Loyalty.
  • Refer-a-friend.

Employee-focused gifting:

Job functions:

  • HR.
  • Director/head of people.
  • Compensation and benefits.

Potential uses for gift cards:

  • Performance rewards.
  • Incentives.
  • Long-service awards.
  • Maternity/paternity gifts. 

Media, channels or techniques used

Data analysis and propensity modelling:

To ensure the data was used optimally, an analysis and propensity modelling exercise was carried out, allowing Really B2B to review segmentation, refine the messaging hierarchy and establish the audience’s likelihood to engage and spend.


Data analysis:

The database was analysed and segmented into the following messaging categories:

  • Existing customer.
  • Customer incentive audience.
  • Employee benefits audience.

Propensity modelling:

Really B2B then reviewed businesses who engaged with M&S across the last year to ascertain the signicant spenders and most engaged audiences. All data was then scored on their propensity to:

  • Respond to communications.
  • Convert to sale
  • Spend – volume and value.

Once propensity by segment was established, messaging was segmented further into the following categories, and the messaging hierarchy was refreshed.

  • 1. Ready to buy (prospect close to conversion).
  • 2. Warm to hot (positive engagements, but more communication needed to convert).

    • 2.1. Look-a-like audience modelled from the high-propensity records.
  • 3. Low engagement (fresh data and data with quantitively low engagement).

Campaign theme

Really B2B needed a campaign theme that would allude to the Christmas period, but also have longevity beyond it. After reviewing M&S’ brand, service and customer truths, Really B2B created a theme which reinforced the strength of the brand whilst bringing to life the impact their corporate gifting options have on their enterprise audience.

‘Be unforgettable’: In today’s transactional world, taking the time to show your appreciation is a gesture that’s not quickly forgotten.

‘Unforgettable’ evokes an emotional response, inspiring the audience to deliver a memorable experience to gain the loyalty of customers and employees with an M&S gift card. The quality of M&S’ products means that however the recipient choses to redeem their card, they will not easily forget the gift they’ve been given.

This theme was then rolled out across all messaging and campaign collateral.


An in-depth website audit was carried out to review the user experience and ensure it met the needs of the audience.

Actions following the audit:

  • Optimised site map – to improve the customer journey.
  • Updated look and feel – to draw greater attention to call-to-actions and align with campaign theme.
  • Content hub created – to improve SEO and track content engagement (which hadn’t previously been a focus for M&S).

    Website bounce rate decreased from 65% to 2.48%.

Audience segmented content

Thought leadership content was created in the form of infographics, ebooks and tip sheets and tailored for both the employee benefits and customer engagement audiences. The content was promoted across all channels to drive downloads and engagements.

Segmented campaign landing pages

Segmented landing pages were developed as a hub for this activity. These hosted key benefits to the specific audiences, as well as a how-to-order brand video and a contact form, as a quick contact point for the time-poor audience.

Paid search

  • M&S’ paid search campaigns (Google and Bing) were aligned with the updated campaign theme and messaging and revised to direct prospects to segmented landing pages.
  • 14% increase in conversions.
  • 24% drop in cost-per-click.



: LinkedIn Sponsored Inmails and posts were used to engage the audience and drive prospects to relevant landing pages, prompting increased inbound enquiries. Utilising LinkedIn’s audience builder enabled Really B2B to reach a wider audience that weren’t on the email database.


Organic posts were launched from the M&S Corporate Gifts business page to promote campaign content further.

Highly-personalised emails


: HTML emails, segmented by industry and job function, drove readers to dedicated Christmas landing pages, which included key benefits, order instructions and a brand video. Increased web form submissions by 149%.

Plain-text lead generation emails:

Sent from an M&S Corporate Gifts email mask, plain-text emails were launched to create the sense of a one-to-one conversation. Utilising pain points identified in the messaging, and segmented by propensity to purchase, job function and industry, these messages had a strong call-to-action to respond to discuss corporate gifting options.


Dedicated M&S telemarketers (through Really B2B’s sister company, MarketMakers) were appointed to follow up inbound enquiries and qualify in order to pass over to M&S’ sales team to close. Really B2B also utilised outbound dialling hours by prioritising the data based on propensity analysis and campaign engagement – meaning all hours were being used in the most effective way to generate the best result.

Key account campaign

100 key prospects were identied from the data analysis and an additional focused approach was used to engage this sought-after audience.


Launched via an HTML email, a £10 eCode was delivered to the key prospects as an additional incentive to enquire. Offering this bought to life the joy their employees and customers will feel by receiving this gift.

Pre-Christmas direct mail

A pre-Christmas direct mail campaign was launched to 10-top prospects from the key list. In order for M&S to ‘be unforgettable’ to their prospects, a clear lockbox, stocked full of M&S goodies, was sent with a combination padlock. Accompanied by a personalised Christmas card urging recipients to ‘unlock the secret of customer loyalty’, the call-to-action was a QR code, linking to a personalised landing page to access their combination code.

Post-Christmas direct mail

A second direct mail piece was launched to an additional 10 prospects. To overcome the dreaded ‘Blue Monday’ (3 January 2020), Really B2B sent a lockbox, this time full of M&S’ iconic Percy Pig sweets and invited prospects to ‘Perk up with Percy’. The QR code directed prospects to a tailored landing page which hosted a campaign video, tying back to the ‘Be Unforgettable’ theme. 

Timescales of the campaign

  • September 2019: Data analysis and propensity modelling.
  • October 2019: Website refresh and campaign launch.
  • November 2019: Pre-Christmas direct mail launch.
  • January 2020: Post-Christmas direct mail launch.
  • Present: Campaign continues


  • Almost £2 million confirmed sales revenue.
  • 1,575% ROI.
  • 114% increase in orders from 2018.
  • 81% increase in revenue from 2018.
  • 55% conversion rate from direct mail.
  • 2.1 million impressions.

“Really B2B have stepped up their game yet again this year! We’ve achieved an incredible result with a huge increase on both orders and revenue. The insight we now have on our audience’s behaviour is invaluable and has ensured we have real cut through with our enterprise decision-makers.”

Warren Humphries, head of gift cards, M&S Corporate Gifts

B2B Marketing Awards 2020

This submission won the award for 

‘Most commercially successful campaign’


‘Best corporate decision-maker-targeted campaign’


‘Best lead generation or nurturing campaign’

 at the B2B Marketing Awards this year.

Find out who made the shortlist here!


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