How Greggs got customers to see it with new eyes
Greggs CEO Roger Whiteside claims perceptions of Marketing Week’s Brand of the Year are shifting from sausage rolls and sticky buns to coffee, wraps and salads, as it looks to convince more people that Greggs is a brand for them
When asked to think about Greggs, most consumers have typically thought of sausage rolls, sticky buns and steak bakes. That’s a perception that Greggs has spent the last six years trying to shift as it looks to food-on-the-go - and in particular the coffee, breakfast and healthy eating sectors – to drive a brand and business turnaround.
It’s a turnaround that has seen huge success. In its most recent quarter, total sales were up 12.4% year on year, while like-for-likes increased 7.4%. And for the six months to 29 June, pre-tax profit hit £36.7m, up from £24.1m in the same period a year ago.
We have a pretty small marketing budget and it forces you to look at ways to cut through
According to Oliver Lewis, managing director of influencer marketing agency The Fifth: “Influencer marketing is growing very quickly. Spend is increasing. In a recent study, 61% of marketers said they would increase their spend this year in influencer marketing, and we have seen that realised.” Olympic gold medal-winning snowboarder Amy Fuller pointed out that brands need to move away from thinking solely in terms of reach to “something more meaningful and outcome-driven”. While campaign objectives differ, from the influencer’s perspective real trust tends to lead to a more authentic, organic and creative partnership, she said.
Fuller told the audience how, as brand ambassador for Tag Heuer, she has learned first-hand the importance of working alongside brands that are “a true representation” of herself. “Tag aligns with what I do both on and off the mountain,” she said, adding: “I’d call myself an athlete not an influencer.” Tag Heuer’s Barnes agreed, telling delegates: “We do a lot of due diligence and research into people. But the more important question is: what do you want from it? Do they represent you as a brand? Is it a good match?
“It’s not an ad campaign. There is no script,” she added. “It’s very different from a brand campaign.”
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Hannah Squirrell, Greggs
“We have a pretty small marketing budget and it forces you to look at ways to cut through and do things differently,” she explained. “We just thought we really needed to make this launch the biggest and best we have ever done.”
Part of Whiteside’s strategy when he took over as CEO was to give marketing a bigger role at the company. When he joined, marketing sat under the trading function and was “a little group of people doing their best” in a company that didn’t prioritise their role.
Greggs' CEO on the brand's turnaround
YouGov's Amelia Brophy explains Greggs' success
That is a far cry from the almost 30% drop experienced in the first half of 2013, when pre-tax profits were just £11.5m. And it’s a turnaround that helped Greggs win Brand of the Year – a category sponsored by YouGov - at the Marketing Week Masters awards earlier this month. (See the box below to find out why it won.)
One of the issues it faced was a marketing issue. Awareness of the brand was “massively high” but dropped off when it came to consideration.
“A lot of people would go ‘I know about Greggs but it’s just not for me’,” explained CEO Roger Whiteside, speaking at the Festival of Marketing.
“We couldn’t lose our reputation for things that most people knew us for – sausage rolls, sweet bakery. But we had to try and establish a reputation alongside that for other things that were growing in demand. A reputation alongside bakery for healthy eating is part of the strategic objective.”
Squirrell was brought in in 2016 to “bring in skills we didn’t have” and now has a role that incorporates the customer, marketing and insight.
“The role is about representing the customer at every point and decision-making process in the business,” she said. “The team structure matches the customer journey and that’s why it’s successful.”
By Sarah Vizard
With that in mind, the launch of Greggs’ vegan sausage roll was key. It was meant to be a one-off product released to coincide with Veganuary but its popularity meant it became a menu staple.
While the vegan sausage roll no doubt tapped into the growing desire for vegan options, the marketing around its launch propelled its sales. With Greggs’ scale, it knew it could make vegan food mainstream, hence the idea to model its introduction on an iPhone launch and try to make it a “cultural moment”.
Greggs’ marketing director Hannah Squirrell believes that key to its success was the team’s ability to “think differently”.
Greggs harnessed a trend when they came out with their vegan sausage roll
Amelia Brophy, YouGov
While Whiteside admitted most people didn’t think Greggs could change brand perceptions, sales tell another story. He claimed Greggs is now number two in the UK for breakfast, number three for coffee and has overtaken Tesco for sandwiches at lunch.
“Can you achieve a brand reappraisal for things that are not bakery but can sit in juxtaposition next to bakery? Most people say you can’t but I’m saying you can,” he explained.
“[Coffee, breakfast and sandwiches] aren’t the bakery items you would normally associate with ‘tell me what you think about Greggs’; they all say sausage rolls. That’s changing. That is what the tracking and everything else shows.”
Having shifted the business and customer perceptions from bakery to food-on-the-go, transformed the back end of the business, and with sales and profits on the rise, you’d be forgiven for thinking Whiteside and Squirrell’s jobs are done. They would disagree.
“I see this as simply getting us to the start line because the plan goes beyond this to the next phase, which is that Greggs becomes multichannel and seamlessly integrated from a customer experience perspective,” said Whiteside.
It is already running trials for delivery and click-and-collect, with electronic kiosks to come next and plans to link the customer experience through its loyalty programme. Greggs also wants to move into the hot food and evening sectors, which Whiteside describes Greggs as being “in the foothills of”, and to reconsider what it takes to be a successful food business as tastes diversify.
“That’s the bit we’ve all been gearing up for. It’s a really exciting prospect because this market is on the cusp of major disruption,” he concluded. “We can see that delivery and click-and-collect will disrupt food-on-the-go and we need to be part of that movement.” ■
Greggs' triumph as the Marketing Week Masters Brand of the Year was based not just on the opinions of the expert judging panel but also data collated by YouGov from its BrandIndex tool, which informed the judging process. The data combined metrics ranging from ad awareness and buzz to value and quality perceptions.
According to YouGov's UK head of data products, Amelia Brophy, the brands that featured on the Brand of the Year shortlist performed well on both the short- term metrics and those related to long-term brand equity. Greggs stood out, however, and at one point last year, one in five Britons recalled seeing a Greggs ad in the previous two weeks.
Greggs also "harnessed a trend" with the launch of its vegan sausage roll, she told the Festival of Marketing. "We have data that says four in 10 Brits are actively looking to reduce their meat consumption, so it really spoke to that group of people and made Greggs perform in a way that we really didn't expect them to."
Greggs' win also pleased TSB CMO Pete Markey, one of the senior marketers on the Masters judging panel, and a regular Greggs customer.
"They know their audience really well...but they've innovated. The vegan sausage roll is just one aspect. If you go into a Greggs, the customer experience has been enhanced," he said.
"They have also been quite clever and edgy with knowing where their brand can go and how to push that brand."
How Greggs became Brand of the Year
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