Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The ECA Q&A: Jo French, head of brand & product marketing at Charles Tyrwhitt

ECA columnist and Retail Insider founder Glynn Davis meets Jo French, head of brand & product marketing at menswear retailer Charles Tyrwhitt


Can you tell us a little bit about Charles Tyrwhitt?

Charles Tyrwhitt (rhymes with spirit) was started in 1986 by Nick Wheeler (founder and owner) from his room at Bristol University; a mail order business selling the very best shirts to men, at unbeatable value for money. We now sell a full range of timeless, quality menswear through our stores in UK, USA and Paris and our far-reaching online store.
 
What are your key areas of responsibility at the company?

I work as a conduit between the product teams, marketing, and sales channels, building both a compelling global customer calendar and the marketing campaigns that sit wit in it. My key responsibility is to ensure the teams are joined up and deliver a consistent ‘on brand’ execution across all customer touch-points. I also lead the PR, Influencer Marketing, Social and Content team.

How important is ecommerce to the business?

Incredibly important, it’s about 70% of our business. For many customers the shopping journey begins and ends online, while we know even for our retail shoppers many will browse online before visiting. In the countries where we don’t have stores, it’s our shop window.
 
How do you handle branding and marketing across channels?

With a robust process and a lot of collaboration across teams! We start from the agreed customer calendar, which marries what’s on our customers’ agenda at a given time with our product proposition, and then I brief in the campaigns to our in-house creative team. Once we are happy that the creative treatment lands the brand message and will connect with our customer, it’s then handed over to the expert channel teams to deliver.
 
Is there much of a difference between the approach you take to marketing online versus the physical environment or are they interchangeable?

The overarching messages are, and should be, the same for brand consistency. However, the way you deliver these depends on the customer dwell time plus online gives you the opportunity to personalise the customer journey from the minute the customer arrives on the website.
 
What experience do you bring from your many previous ecommerce roles?

I was incredibly lucky to work in a very dynamic forward-thinking ecommerce team at Monsoon Accessorize and I gained some amazing experience. I hope it’s given me the understanding to build compelling customer campaigns that work for the channel.
 
What for you is the difference between branding and marketing FMCG/CPG versus clothing?

Control over the end-to-end customer experience. Typically, FMCG brands have limited control over the sales channel, shopping experience, and customer relationship. It’s much more of direct product experience that’s being sold to the customers. As a clothes retailer, we own the full end-to-end customer experience whether that is on our website, our stores, our customer service, or our communications. At Charles Tyrwhitt, of course, we want them to love our products, but we also want customers to enjoy the whole shopping experience in our stores and on our website. Our service proposition is a key part of our brand DNA and supports our mission to’ help men to dress well’.
 
What has been keeping you busy over recent months?
 
Sportsmen! Charles Tyrwhitt is the formalwear menswear partner to England Rugby (RFU), so with the Guinness Six Nations having just started and the World Cup in September, we have been creating some great campaigns and content with our brand ambassadors Marcus Smith and Matt Dawson, plus the England Rugby Team. We also work with Joe Root and Jos Butler so when we’re not focused on Rugby we’re thinking about cricket! They are all truly inspirational with an amazing work ethic, it’s a pleasure to work with them.

What are the challenges and opportunities for the company and the category?

Clearly there are a number of macro headwinds for retailers to navigate right now and there’s no sign of this abating in the near future. That said, strong differentiated brands who are close to what their customers want will be well placed to weather storms. 

Rules on menswear are changing and the pandemic has accelerated this change. For some men this is an exciting evolution yet for many others new codes of dressing create new challenges! The opportunity is to make it easy for all men to feel appropriately, confidently, and comfortably dressed for their day ahead.