Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Greggs : We want to change people’s minds. But not at any cost.

Data is growing in importance to bakery brand Greggs as it seeks to build its business and change people’s minds about what it stands for — but not at any cost. 

In a Madfest London 2019 keynote speech Hannah Squirrell, Greggs’ customer and marketing director, said: “We’re in the camp of ‘we want data’ — if it helps us to serve customers better or to add value.”

As such it was in the process of beefing up its App, with a new version being tested at the moment. It was set up five years ago to underline Greggs’ coffee offering — it now sells more cups daily than Starbucks in the UK — but is being overhauled to include options such as ‘Click and Collect’. 

“We know that the proposition needs to be deeper,” she admitted. “We have 6.5 million customer journeys each week, who are in and out — generally they’re in the shop for two minutes. The app is different. It’s growing. That’s where we can target and offer insights. 

Squirrell joined Greggs as a board-level customer director in February 2017 and says the position helps give customers an independent seat at the table. 

Previously, marketing sat under the trading function but with her appointment was elevated to a customer function, bringing together insight, business-to-business, corporate communications and reputation management. 

It comes at a time when Greggs wants to be seen less as a ‘bakery’ brand and more about ‘food on the go’, with more healthy, vegetarian and vegan options. Squirrell says that its’ Balanced Choice range now accounts for around 25% of sales. 

“People don’t think ‘healthy eating’ when they think Greggs. [But] we are absolutely meeting targets in health and obesity. We don’t advertise to children. We’re playing our part getting people to think about Greggs as salads and wraps,” she said.

“These are brand changes. We’re tapping into what our customers are wanting and that naturally delivers growth. Basically, we’re offering great quality at better value than the competition.”

Greggs made headlines worldwide in January this year when it launched a vegan sausage roll: attention snowballed after broadcaster Piers Morgan slammed it and they responded with social media marketing that itself went viral. 

Little wonder that there is “a lot of emphasis on social”, though the balance is subtly shifting. Social is also used for asking people their opinions on product development and the brand is also “moving away from the stunts-based piece — now it’s more of a drumbeat,” she said, citing a recent radio campaign in the Midlands focusing on its ethical, value-for-money coffee.

She also wants a bigger focus on the community values that Greggs has stood for since launch.

“We don’t go out and shout about it but we do need to make people aware. If you don’t talk more about the good things we do around, for example, sustainability and the environment it will look like we’re not doing it,” she concluded. “We are a very humble brand. It’s that undercurrent of just doing the right thing.”