Paul Taylor of BrandOpus breaks down the surprising collaboration between Primark and Greggs.
Last week, cult brand Greggs went viral with the ‘tasty’ launch of a clothing collab between itself and fellow high-street icon Primark. The release of the limited-edition, 11-piece clothing collection will coincide with the launch of a 130-seater cafe in the retailer’s flagship Birmingham store, as well as a clothing pop-up in trendy Soho just prior to London Fashion Week.
So, what does it take to make such an unexpected pairing work and why is the Greggs x Primark crossover a match made in heaven?
The 'merchi-fication' of F&B
While this trend is only in its infancy in the UK, collaborations between FMCG, F&B or CPG brands and the world of fashion have become almost de rigueur over the pond. From Panera’s ‘soup’ swimsuits and SunnyD’s bold bobble hats, to the release of Oscar Mayer’s revamped ‘Hotdogger’ uniforms to the public [which BrandOpus worked on], the ‘merchi-fication’ of brands is one of the more humorous marketing trends to evolve in the last few years.
But despite the frivolity at its core, there is function to these tie-ups too – and therefore significant brand value in pursuing them, so long as you bear the following in mind:
Leave ‘serious’ at the door
Critically, both Greggs and Primark know what they are not: aspirational or high fashion. This self-awareness is essential to ensuring that anything they launch, outside of business-as-usual products, remains authentic and keeps the public ’in on the joke’. Streetwear lines from unexpected brands work best when they poke fun at a fashion industry, which can often take itself too seriously.
Set to launch right on the doorstep of London Fashion Week later this month, the Greggs x Primark clothing collection adeptly flips the narrative of what it takes to look good, enabling those who may traditionally have been excluded from the exclusive world of high-fashion to get their own taste of the action in a way that works for them.
This type of launch activation puts the brand in the hands of consumers in a way that traditional activations on billboards or in TV campaigns simply cannot. It’s this insight that Oscar Mayer leveraged when it made the decision to shoot the campaign for its ‘Hotdogger’ uniforms – worn by those operating its infamous Wienermobile – also against the backdrop of Fashion Week, this time New York.
By redesigning and relaunching the uniforms as part of a subversive ’Street Meats’ collection, we were able to elevate what was already a core asset for the brand into a modern and future-facing piece of collateral that could be used to connect with younger audiences in an authentic way.
Repurpose old ‘hype’ tactics to create a new kind of cool
Taking such an approach also enables both brands to capitalize on the ‘hype’ of being limited and to benefit from the halo effect of exclusivity previously reserved for achingly cool brands like Supreme. You can’t buy these collections in the traditional sense, but you can ‘cop’ them through fervent dedication to the brand. This subtle dig at the growing ‘uncoolness’ of millennial hype culture – scorned by Gen Z, who prefer unfiltered to curated feeds – is also cognizant of the fact the hierarchy of what’s in and what’s not is shifting.
Today’s logo mania has to be ironic to work. Where it used to be all about wearing Gucci, it’s now about elevating the everyday to a label consumers would wear. Brands like Greggs and Primark now have a social currency that previously was saved for the high fashion, typically ‘cooler’ brands. The underdog story is more compelling and exciting. To say you’d wear a Greggs T-shirt but not a Loewe sweatshirt is empowering and shows you don’t just follow the pack, you’re creating one that aligns more with you and your group’s values and mentality.
Reinforce your underlying brand message
Of course, these clothing lines may only be a bit of fun for brands, but they serve a function too by tapping into shared emotional space that they, fundamentally, have a right to occupy. If a brand is to make the most of a clothing collab, it has to be more than a gimmick; elevating the synergies which already exist between itself and its consumer base.
Iconic brands that consumers know and love can tap into their cult-like following and give something back that their fans will find comical but also treasure. Just as Oscar Mayer’s NYFW launch of the ‘Hotdogger’ uniform is a real-world example of its core mission of ‘sparking smiles’ and Chipotle’s avocado streetwear line (made from recycled avocado skins) reinforces its upcycling approach, the Greggs x Primark collection is an embodiment of their down-to-earth approach to both fashion and food.
This use of underlying message creates a connection much stronger than advertising, with consumers (literally) able to wear your brand with pride. Which is why this will work so well for Greggs and Primark. Two iconic British brands that are the epitome of the high-street, with a shared grab-and-go culture, the collection works to subtly reinforce a brand message for both and win the hearts and minds of consumers in a new and exciting way.
My advice is to get your hands on a signature piece now. You might find it’s worth more than a few steak bakes on eBay in 20 years.
Paul Taylor is chief creative officer and partner at BrandOpus.