Roll up, roll up for Greggs’ potential PR stunt

If someone had told you a month ago that a new sausage roll would soon trigger a social media uproar, you probably wouldn’t have believed them. When Greggs announced its new vegan sausage roll, many showed their disapproval, and the social media team behind the bakery chain wasn’t shy to respond. When one Twitter follower tweeted ‘The world’s f***ed !!’ Greggs was quick to reassure that ‘It’s a vegan sausage roll Damon.’ And when Piers Morgan tweeted ‘Nobody was waiting for a vegan bl**dy sausage, you PC-ravaged clowns,’ Greggs politely replied ‘Oh hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you.’ Given how active Greggs was over social media shortly after the announcement, it’s easy to see why cynics might see this as more than just a product innovation, and why PR Week has called it a ‘masterclass in public relations.’ Was it in fact a clever PR stunt?

As veganism grows in popularity, you could say that Greggs was simply trying to attract new customers. The UK meat-free market is estimated to grow to £658m by 2021, so there’s definitely room for Greggs to take advantage of a lucrative new market. But recent events have thrusted veganism into the media spotlight, suggesting that Greggs saw the perfect opportunity to be at the centre of a debate. For example, when William Sitwell resigned from being the editor of Waitrose Food due to his comments about killing vegans, not everyone agreed whether it was fair grounds for dismissal. If Greggs did try to premediate a debate, perhaps they were even sponsoring Piers Morgan to perpetuate it? Did he have his Twitter app ready to make an outburst moments after the announcement?

This isn’t the first time that Greggs has shown some banter over social media after going viral. Five years ago, it fell victim to Google’s arbitrary algorithms, and anyone that googled Greggs would see at the right hand corner: ‘Greggs – Providing sh*t to scum for over 70 years.’ Greggs’ social media team had some funny exchanges with followers, including Google, who they tweeted a picture of some doughnuts along with ‘Hey @GoogleUK, fix it and they’re yours!!! #FixGreggs.’ Google responded saying that they would fix it double quick if Greggs provided a sausage roll as well. When Greggs replied with a picture of sausage rolls that were arranged to spell out Google, people working at the search engine simply couldn’t resist. The vegan sausage roll incident shows that Greggs’ social media team hasn’t lost its banter.

PR stunt or not, Greggs’ new product has proved itself to be a marketing success for the bakery. YouGov’s brand index reveals that Greggs’ buzz score (a measure of whether consumers have heard anything about the brand in the last fortnight) has shot up by 8.2 – beating its high score achieved in March last year. It goes to show how successful it can be to base marketing activity on a hot topic, and how brands can help it go viral with a few light-hearted exchanges over social media. Let’s hope Greggs’ social media continue to wow us with some ground-baking marketing. 

Alex Brown enjoys being one of the Skout blog’s most regular contributors.

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