Innovation 50: Greggs shows that cult status and personality-led marketing are a recipe for high street success

Innovation 50: Greggs shows that cult status and personality-led marketing are a recipe for high street success

Pre-covid data showed Greggs was the top dining brand in eight of 12 UK regions in 2019. What is it about the marketing strategy of UK high street sausage roll and sandwich supremo Greggs that always seems to help it rise above the rest?

Freelance Creative Copywriter Daniel Nixon says it is the fact that: “Greggs knows exactly what its customers want, and it speaks to them in just the right way every time. All without being over-friendly or disingenuous.”

For Donald Ferguson, Director, Hope & Glory PR, Greggs is: “One of the best in recent years in embracing its own cult status.

“Having spent years being unfairly bashed by food snobs as low-rent, cheap and nasty, the brand has transformed its image through incredibly smart personality-led marketing. Tackling stereotypes head-on, it’s managed to bring to life its wholesome quality credentials whilst raising a smile.”

The secret ingredient – listening to customers

Greggs’ marketing strategy over the past decade has been transformative. Breaking away from its low-brow seller of sausage rolls image, it has now become a favourite purveyor of food-on-the-go for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with healthy options to boot, and a brand personality that everyone recognises.

The UK bakery chain is a strong entrant to our Innovation 50 list. The journey here has been littered with glowing examples of incredible PR stunts, humorous product launches and marketing ideas that chime with what its customers are thinking and feeling.

It may be a classic approach, to attempt to inject humour into a dour brand in a commoditised sector, but it is so easy to get wrong. Yet Greggs gets it right more often than not.

That is because it listens to its customers on a daily basis and builds its marketing strategy around the insights yielded by this approach. Over the years, there have been some classic moments for Greggs.

Moments that make the difference

Few in the media will forget the launch of its vegan sausage roll. It arrived on journalists’ desks boxed in iPhone-style packaging with an iPhone style launch video that mockingly described the cinematically-featured pastry ‘The Next Generation of Sausage Roll Technology’.

Shareable content like that only increases the likelihood of press coverage. And it did.

And if it is hard to pull off such stunts, the Greggs Christmas 2017 advent calendar is a case in point. The final window featured the Three Wise Men, in the stable, surrounding not the baby Jesus but a sausage roll.

Some loved it. Christians the world over were offended. A public apology was issued by the company. But the stunt stayed in people’s minds, gave Greggs a higher profile than ever before, and its public persona was becoming more firmly established.

Other less controversial episodes include the 2018 Valentine’s celebrations at which romantic couples were hosted to candlelight in its stores by waiters, serenaded with classical music, and served four course meals consisting of, well, pastries.

It just goes to show how far a humble pastry outlet can go, based on a recipe of brand personality built on daring and humorous PR backed by a marketing strategy informed by what customers say.