Before I began my career in marketing, I spent just short of 4 years working as a team member at Greggs. While I was already fairly set on a career in marketing, witnessing the impact of Gregg’s campaigns from the perspective of a shop team member is what inspired me to start applying.
With Greggs having hit headlines a few times (to say the least), the marketing strategy they implement evidently seems to work.
So let’s talk about some of Gregg’s biggest and boldest marketing campaigns.
The 2017 Christmas Campaign
What became one of Greggs’ most controversial marketing campaigns was the release of their 2017 advent calendar. In order to promote the one-off festive product, a publicity shot was released depicting the three wise men gathered around the manger, but instead of the baby Jesus, they were presenting their gifts to a half-eaten sausage roll. While Greggs reassured the public the product was created in a lighthearted manner, it caused a stir with the Christian and Jewish communities who deemed it to be “tasteless” and “religiously insensitive.” Following these comments, Greggs apologised and stated it was never their intention to cause offence with the Christian and Jewish communities.
While the controversy didn’t tarnish Greggs’ name for good, the criticism they received sparked debate about the use of religious symbolism in marketing, a conversation that may help brands in the future.
Gregory & Gregory
One of Greggs’ lesser-known campaigns took place at a London foodie festival to promote their 2018 summer menu; but not as we know them. Despite its limited publicity, some analysts have argued it’s one of their best. The food-to-go chain attended the festival under the guise of an artisan deli known as ‘Gregory and Gregory’, serving their range of salads and wraps disguised as gourmet food dishes. Once the festival-goers had tested the products, Greggs would then reveal themselves, often being met with pleasantly surprised reactions.
While the campaign’s original intention was to promote their seasonal menu, it also served another purpose. Greggs were, and still are, attempting to reposition their brand, while maintaining their affordable and accessible image and intent. The PR stunt allowed them to prove their menu was no longer ‘outdated’ or consisted only of ‘stodgy’ items. Instead, customers could find themselves entering a Greggs store at any time of the day, leaving with food that could pass as gourmet, all at an affordable cost.
The Playstation 5 Launch Boxes
To celebrate the launch of the PS5 in 2020, Greggs and Playstation came together for a collaboration in which the bakery chain released a £5 meal deal exclusively for Just Eat customers. The deal was limited to 50 per shop and included 6 products, all for the price of £5. While the deal could be purchased by any Just Eat customer, it was originally targeted at those who had purchased a PS5 and were remaining at home to play on their new games console and branded as “perfect addition to any multiplayer gaming session”.
Although for different reasons, both Playstation and Greggs, are two of the most popular brands in the UK so it doesn’t seem like such an unusual collaboration when considered from that perspective.
Launch of the Vegan Sausage Roll
In the year Veganuary participants more than doubled to over 250,000, 2019 saw Greggs launch a campaign that caused both elation and tension. The long-awaited and rumoured release of the vegan sausage roll may have sparked a debate that ultimately divided the nation, but proved to be a huge success when it was revealed they had achieved profits of £36.7 million by the end of June 2019, and a year on year sales increase of 13.5%. Profit so momentous, in fact, that each of their 25,000 employees received a bonus of up to £300 to recognise their contribution to the business’ success.
The success of the vegan sausage roll can be attributed to several factors, but their commitment to acknowledging the needs of their customers seems to be what skyrocketed their sales. In 2018, a PETA petition amassed over 20,000 signatures from those calling for Greggs to expand their vegan range to include an animal product free version of their most popular product. The ever-rising membership figures for Veganuary is concrete evidence that there is a growing demand for vegan products in the UK.
So What Can We Learn from Gregg’s Marketing?
Knowing (and listening to) your audience/customer is key
Greggs have an in-depth understanding of their customer base, ensuring that needs and desires are listened to and catered to. By listening to customers, they’re not only increasing their chances of expanding their already expansive customer base through sales, but they’ll obtain insider information that can support future campaigns and ultimately strengthen them.
Change is inevitable (and good for business)
This is inevitable in life, so naturally, businesses and their respective marketing must adapt accordingly. Change is what keeps everything fresh, including our menus. Being creative and standing out is what influences brands to move forward, as staying complacent and remaining in the past can halt brand progression. Overall, what has kept Gregg’s such an icon in UK contemporary culture is their active marketing. It has built not only overall brand awareness but has also remained on trend by latching on to trending movements, including the release of the PS5, summer festivals and the shift towards veganism. It has introduced tasty and affordable plant-based foods to those who otherwise may not have considered vegan options and remains consistent in its ability to impress the public with new options throughout each year.
Dependable, Responsible, Commendable
Across the country and the web, Gregg’s maintains its consistency across the board. Whether it’s a Greggs in Norwich or a Greggs in Middlesbrough, you can expect the same quality, price and service. The same goes for their PR, digital and traditional marketing – all of which has secured their place in customers’ hearts and wallets.