I've been fangirling hard over the Greggs vegan sausage roll launch; so much so that I went on camera to share my thoughts about why it was such a successful and awesome product PR launch. The transcript is beneath the video, but if you're up for it then why not watch this video of me waffling on about it?
Don't worry, it's also transcribed below if you don't fancy watching me for more than seven minutes (though it's worth it, I promise - even if just to see what hilariously unattractive faces I pull when you pause it at the right moment).
So for those of you that don’t know - or if you don’t, you must’ve been living under a rock, because it’s been literally everywhere – Greggs have launched a vegan sausage roll – finally – and it’s been something that’s been in the pipeline for quite a long time.
So going back to January last year, exactly a year ago, there was a petition going around from PETA, the animal people – and it was basically a petition to launch a vegan sausage roll. They really wanted Greggs to launch one. It was doing the rounds and eventually it got 20,000 signatures and that’s kind of where it all began.
So the vegan sausage roll from Greggs got loads of media attention then, even though it wasn’t a thing yet, just because PETA had this petition and everyone was talking about it on social, journalists were running it in media stories.
And then we fast forward a little bit to December just gone, so December 2018, there was a leaked email from Greggs' to employees. It apparently wasn’t meant to get out there, but everybody knows a leaked email is always deliberate and it’s usually the brand behind it.
I’ve actually got a little snippet from the email that was leaked, where Greggs said: “We’re really excited about the launch of the vegan sausage roll, as we know you and our customers will be too.”
So then we had a whole wave of more media coverage for the vegan sausage roll – loads of journalists were covering it… is it going to happen? Is it not going to happen? And then obviously people were talking about the fact that the petition had run earlier in the year and how many signatures it had got, so it was all kind of building up to something, which was a clear sign that it was probably going to happen and I think the email kind of just put the stamp on that.
And then finally, in January - on the 2nd I believe it was - Greggs tweeted and confirmed everything; and they did it in a really clever way. They had a video to tease the launch, and it was a kind of Apple style video which was basically a parody of the iPhone launches.
So, ya know, you see this vegan sausage roll with a black background and just loads of notes coming off of it about its design and its pastry layers, and mega bites and loads of clever play on words like that. It was just brilliant. So they tweeted the video and they confirmed that it was going to be in Greggs stores the next day, so the 3rd of Jan.
And to play along with that theme, they also did something really clever with the press launch. So it became clear from an article that I saw on Vice, that Greggs had actually sent out the vegan sausage rolls to journalists in iPhone style packaging as well. So, kind of the white box with the Greggs logo looking like where the Apple logo would normally be, and it was just really clever. They had everything planned out to be exactly like an iPhone launch, but with this vegan sausage roll, which was hilarious.
That video that Greggs tweeted actually raked in 5.3 million views, which is incredible for a teaser video for a new product that’s just been shared on Twitter that isn’t an actual iPhone.
And then Piers Morgan got involved, obviously… of course he did… and he tweeted Greggs basically saying nobody asked for a vegan sausage roll – I think he called everyone ‘a bunch of PC clowns’, which was nice of him.
Greggs stepped in and did something really clever. It was their digital brand manager, who I believe is called Neil Knowles, not like Nick Knowles as he says in his Twitter; he tweeted Piers back (note: from the Greggs account) and just said ‘Hello Piers, we’ve been expecting you’, which is just brilliant, because it just goes to show Greggs’ tongue in cheek approach to it all, and how lighthearted they are about everything, which fit perfectly with the iPhone parody approach of it all.
What Piers Morgan didn’t realise is that he was actually doing Greggs an even bigger favour, because just the fact that he was tweeting about it just gave the vegan sausage roll even more exposure, even if it was to meat eaters who wouldn’t give two hoots about it really. So he gave it a load more exposure, then he ended up trying the vegan sausage roll live on Good Morning Britain and he made a big song and dance of it, spat it out, pretended to be sick; just did his typical ‘Piers Morgan being a bit of an arse’ approach.
It’s almost too good really. It’s almost as if Greggs might have paid him a little bit of money to get involved in the campaign, with the whole ‘no PR is bad PR’ – and, ya know, everything he did just made the launch even bigger.
So, because of all the build-up that we had for the vegan sausage roll, they finally launched it, it was out there, journalists were trying it and reviewing it… then there were the follow up stories.
So, how much of a demand there was for the vegan sausage roll, and how they couldn’t keep up with it; they were flying off the shelves. I am doing Veganuary – I’ve been trying to go vegan for a while, on and off, so went into town to try and get one. I couldn’t, so I think, you know, everywhere there were people just talking about how they couldn’t get their hands on one, which led to Greggs then increasing the number of stores that they were going to put them into.
Then there was another follow up story about people selling the vegan sausage rolls on eBay, for like £12.50… they retail for a pound, by the way, if you’re in the market for one.
And now, off the back of all of that, the share price for Greggs has actually risen and so have the profit forecasts; so they’ve actually increased that off the back of the success of the vegan sausage roll, which is really good, because if you look back historically, Greggs have (when they haven’t had very good profit forecasts) blamed things like, I think in 2003 it was the hot weather, in 2013 it was the struggling high street that they blamed for the profit warnings and in 2018 last year we had the Beast from the East which pretty much screwed everything up for everyone, so you know this year for them to be able to say "yes we’re actually going to increase our profit forecasts and it’s all thanks to the vegan sausage roll", that just gave it another big push, which was really good.
So, all in all, this has been one of Greggs’ best campaigns ever. It’s probably one of my favourite PR and marketing campaigns ever, not just for Greggs, but just that anyone’s done. I think it’s been really well executed, and for Greggs in particular it has just solidified their place as really good marketers of their own brand. I think, when you look back at what they’ve done before, there was the stunt where they went along to a really high end foodie event and they took a truck along that was branded ‘Gregory & Gregory’. Of course, it was just Greggs products. They kind of laid them all out, they had everything there except their pastries and sausage rolls, everything you’d typically associate with Greggs. So it was more the salads and the other snacks, but nobody realised it was Greggs. And then they kind of packaged it as a story and had some video content around it and it was just awesome. But I think the vegan sausage roll launch for Greggs will probably go down as one of the best PR and marketing campaigns ever. It’s just been really great and I’m really excited to see what else they’ve got in store for it really; and to get my hands on one, because I still haven’t been able to. So Greggs, if you’re watching, send me a vegan sausage roll. Thank you!