Big Interview: Dan Elton, Head of Marketing Communications, Argos

As a senior brand and marketing executive, Dan Elton plays a key role in Argos. In an interview with the Retail Gazette, he reflects on behind the scenes for the catalogue retailer's Christmas advert, explains why catalogue retail is not dead, how Argos is trading amidst a challenging retail climate.

574
Dan Elton Argos
While some retailers are stamping out their catalogue divisions to solely rely on online, Argos is doing the opposite, Argos' Dan Elton says.

In some ways, Dan Elton joining Argos after six years at Tesco may raise some eyebrows.

After all, Argos is owned by Tesco’s main rival Sainsbury’s and the rivalry between the two grocery giants is akin to the rivalries between Apple and Microsoft, or Amazon and Alibaba.

Nonetheless, when looking back on his career, Elton prides himself on being able to “transfer the skills” he had learnt at Tesco over to his current role as Argos brand and digital marketing director.

He started his career with the Big 4 leader in 2010 as operations development manager before working his way up to his last role there as customer insight director. Elton joined Argos in 2016, a few months after Sainsbury’s acquired it in a £1.4 billion deal.

He now aims to deliver an innovative marketing strategy for Argos and his latest work includes Argos’ 2019 Christmas advert, which featured the retailer renaming its catalogue to the The Book of Dreams.

Elton said he and his team have “focused on what’s unique” about Argos in the last few years in regards to the retailer’s Christmas campaigns.

Argos’ previous festive marketing had primarily evolved around its same-day delivery offering and click-and-collect service, but Elton said that although those adverts had generated “great commercial results”, the team wanted this year’s Christmas advert to be focused on family.

“This year, we wanted to do something slightly different,” he told Retail Gazette.

“A very large portion of our sales are generated during Christmas”

“We wanted to focus on how customers feel about the Argos brand and really start with them rather than start with us.

“We had an insight kicking around the marketing team for a couple of years that we’ve been toying with, which is this idea of customers sitting with their families and circling products in the Christmas catalogue.

“That was actually something I experienced last year with my family, and I did it as a kid,” he laughed.

“I came down at Christmas last year and found my wife and two small kids circling products in the Christmas catalogue, so when the team presented an idea centred around that insight, it was something that I and the rest of my team could really get behind.”

Elton added: “The actual ad itself is all about a dad and daughter who have a shared passion for drums. And it’s about dream fulfilment.

“And you know, they end up in the ad drumming at what seems like a gig of the lifetime surrounded by a fantastic set of Christmas gifts that you can buy at Argos – so we think it’s really nostalgic but also really relevant for us.”

Dan Elton Argos Sainsbury's
In April 2016, Home Retail Group agreed to be taken over by Sainsbury’s for £1.4bn. The deal included Argos and Habitat

 

Elton went on to say that “one of the joys of living in the modern age” meant he and his team could utilise social media to receive live feedback. Because of this, Argos’ latest Christmas campaign had been “pre-tested”.

“One of the things that gave us a great deal of confidence about this campaign is that actually, if you look on Twitter, there is an enormous volume of commentary about the Christmas catalogue and about parents and their kids sitting there and circling products,” he explained.

Elton said his job was very much focused around Christmas.

“If you win Christmas, you’ve got a positive year ahead,” he said.

“Any retailer that tells me they don’t feel any pressure at Christmas is lying”

Meanwhile, Elton acknowledged that retail has endured a “really challenging year”, particularly with the “extremely difficult consumer environment in the UK”.

With that in mind, he wanted to set Argos apart from competitors by focusing on uniqueness and creativity, and the Christmas campaign was an example of this since Argos has a monopoly on the catalogue retail sector.

Elton added that although he has a positive outlook on Argos’ performance for the rest of the year, the company still faces pressure, especially in the run-up to Christmas when retailers scurry to find ways to drive sales.

“Any retailer that tells me they don’t feel any pressure at Christmas is lying,” he told Retail Gazette.

Elton said he strives to keep Argos relevant through advertising and gaining further knowledge of social media to appeal to a younger “tech-savvy” customer demographic.

“We’re naturally a business that in many ways is more convenient than our competitors,” he explained.

“We’re a business that is highly relevant to our customers. We have about 60 per cent of our sales originating online, while 80 per cent of sales is actually fulfilled through physical stores.

“Our customers love to browse products, search and buy online. But then they also find it really convenient to collect those in our store.”

Dan Elton Argos
60% of Argos’ sales originate online

While some retailers are stamping out their catalogue divisions to solely rely on online, Argos is doing the opposite.

Elton said this was being assisted by making use of its marketing department to “consistently test and trial” the performance of its marketing channels.

“Every time we test the effectiveness of the catalogue, every time we test whether it’s still relevant for our customers, we get a kind of a fairly resounding answer. The answer is yes,” he said.

“In an environment where fewer and fewer retailers are using catalogue, that doesn’t mean it’s less effective for us. If anything, that means that customers are finding something unique with us.

“I don’t think we will be getting rid of the Argos catalogue anytime soon.”

Click here to sign up to Retail Gazette‘s free daily email newsletter