The Greggs effect: Looking ahead to Veganuary 2021

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Unlike Megan and Harry, veganism is here to stay. Not only are 350,000 Brits (100,000 more than in 2019) taking part in Veganuary this month, over half of UK consumers have reduced their meat consumption as self-professed ‘flexitarians’ – something that’s set to continue when the bluest month of the year is well and truly over. Why? Well for most it comes down to concerns around health and the environment, led by the sustainably conscious Gen Z.

It therefore comes as no surprise that many fast food outlets have tapped into this trend by introducing vegan versions of their meaty favourites to menus this month. Following in the footsteps of trailblazer Greggs, brands are pumping substantial resources into their own plant-based junk food ranges. From KFC’s Original Recipe Quorn Burger and McDonalds Vegan Dippers, to Subway’s Meatless Meatball Marinara Sub and the Pizza Hut‘ “pepperphoni” pizza, all were eager to grab a piece of the vegan pie.

Focusing in on the launch campaigns, although many gained column inches, none grabbed the media’s attention more than Greggs, who, after a very successful practice run in 2018/19, once again stole the show with that hotly-anticipated vegan steak bake.

So what can brands learn from Greggs if they want to lead the conversation in 2021? No easy feat, but a challenge most QSR Marketing Directors will be laying down to their agencies in the coming months.

Leading the charge

Like all good things it started with a tease. A first-look video of the new vegan snack dropped via social media, fuelling speculation weeks before the official launch in January. Building anticipation and winning over the regional audience, a phased rollout was announced, starting with a select number of northern branches where the bakery’s humble story began.

Next came the photo story featuring queues around the block, closely followed by news of the meatless marvel selling out almost everywhere - planned or not, the hype was real. The momentum continued with longer feature placements and case studies that spanned the business, lifestyle, and taste test pages. Multiple touchpoints for maximum impact.

Credit must also be given to the good-humoured, self-depreciating social marketing strategy, which remained on point since vegan-lover Piers Morgan bulldozed into the debate last January. With a relatable TOV, Greggs appealed to the younger Generation Z consumers more likely to be concerned about their meat intake in the first place.

Meat messaging

So, what are the ’takeaways’? In short, know your audience, timing is king and sweat every possible angle. Oh, and make sure everyone – from burger flippers to the management team – knows the plans and messaging.

Ultimately, just like the movement itself which is here to stay, brands need to be in it for the long haul. Consumers crave authenticity and see past the gimmicks and stunts. At Stir, we’re all about creating campaigns that stir emotion and move people to change behaviour. Our brains don’t pay attention to the loudest messages, but the ones that make us feel something.

Brands wanting to capitalise on the Veganuary hype can’t just activate with a flash in the pan execution but rather need to deliver something that represents a meaningful and lasting commitment to the cause – with the ability to extend beyond the month of January.

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