Multi-platform content, photography and design

We like to think of ourselves as Santa’s little helpers (or maybe M&S’s little helpers). For the last five years, we’ve been the lead creative agency producing their Christmas Gift Guide. We showcase all the unique and stylish gifts at M&S and we make it easy for customers who are searching for that elusive perfect present for everyone on their list. We work with all their internal departments to create something new and exciting each year, which also fits with their above-the-line advertising and in-store merchandising. It’s all about beautiful imagery, clear messaging and showcasing an abundance of amazing gifts on each page. This is the key selling period for this huge high-street retailer, so it’s all the more flattering that they’ve chosen us for so long. All our hard work helps to make M&S a key destination for customers during the festive season (but, unlike the elves, we can’t rest afterwards as we’re already thinking of ideas for the next festive season!)



The aim was to showcase the best Christmas gifts from the nation’s favourite store, as well as raising awareness of M&S as a one-stop shop for gifting, and driving sales online and in store. The Gift Guide is M&S’s key selling tool at Christmas and we had to make sure it stood out in the crowded gift market. We also had to handpick the best of the best from M&S’s range of thousands of products – a tough task – and make them come alive over 148 pages.

As catalogue experts, we wanted to create something on brand, but not predictable. And that’s exactly what we did. Alongside beautiful photography and design, we gave the catalogue an editorial feel by grouping the products in an inspiring way – telling stories about them, talking about trends, and giving customers a reason to buy. We talked to the M&S customer in a friendly and informal way.

Several customers from our focus groups said the Gift Guide was ‘an invaluable shopping tool’. They also said it was an inspiring showcase for the range that they were happy to keep on the coffee table and that it had beautiful photography. M&S were delighted with this response – and so were we!

Axon has been successfully producing the print version of M&S Gift Guide for the last few years, but for Christmas 2011 we were asked by the Daily Mail to work with them and M&S to release a digital version of the guide, to be hosted on the Daily Mail’s website. The aim of the digital version was to encourage additional sales online to a brand new audience for M&S and to increase footfall in store.

Using the content that we had conceived and shot for the printed catalogue, we set about creating a digital version, but gave it a unique user proposition and customer journey. It was vital that the digital Gift Guide wasn’t simply a replica version and we included lots of digital interactivity to create a different experience to that of the printed catalogue.

Part of the brief was to create something special and research showed our images were considered to be visually stunning by 54% of respondents and 43% thought they had magic and sparkle. We retained the categories – ‘for him’, ‘for her’, etc – as clear navigation had researched well previously, but we edited the selection of goods and, in conjunction with M&S, created a plan to release certain products on specific dates. This meant that the Guide was constantly being refreshed and gave people a reason to return.

All products were presented in a clear fashion with simple captioning – 71% of people clicked on products to get details. We created a Wish List that customers could add to and then send to their loved ones, and we made sure each product could be clearly rated, as we know M&S customers trust reviews by other customers.

We also embedded video content to introduce new designers such as Marcel Wanders – helping to bring their ethos to new customers, plus useful buyers’ guides to educate customers about ranges and to encourage sales. A clock with a real-time countdown to Christmas added a fun and useful element. Additional innovative touches included sparkly stars on jewellery, masking devices that brought products to the fore when you hovered over them with your mouse, flashing review buttons, animated products such as watches, and pages where products would appear once you had clicked on the page – everything to create something fun and user-friendly.

Customer comments included:
> ‘Covers all my Xmas shopping needs’
> ‘Unusual gifts for Christmas’
> ‘Stunning gifts for Christmas – beautiful photography’
> Had over 500,000+ unique visitors a day at high points in the campaign
> 57% of people visited an M&S store as a result of using the Gift Guide
> 45% would only visit M&S after being impressed by the Gift Guide
> 47% purchased gifts as a result of visiting the Gift Guide
> Intention to purchase doubled in categories such as decorations, toys and
gadgets – all areas M&S isn’t well known for and where it traditionally doesn’t
achieve higher sales