Greggs recently caused a media frenzy by replacing baby Jesus with a sausage roll in the nativity scene in images to promote their £24 Christmas advent calendar. Each door in the advent calendar reveals festive scenes with a Greggs twist and a voucher to use in store.

This prompted outraged reactions from Christians who did not see the humorous side. See my mum’s reaction below as an example.

 

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Was it smart to replace ‘saviour’ with ‘savoury’ in the nativity scene? You could say the campaign worked well as my mum had previously not heard of Greggs but it got their name out there through increased media coverage. This is an example of how bad publicity can raise awareness of previously unknown brands. However, she is apparently now ‘boycotting Greggs’.

The advertisement was a risky move by Greggs, especially when religion is involved they may end up alienating a lot of customers. Jesus was Jewish, so replacing him with a sausage roll in the manger is inappropriate as Jews do not eat pork, therefore in that sense it is understandable why some may find it offensive. Would other religions, such as Islam be mocked publicly in the same way? Unlikely.

Greggs quickly apologised for the image and said in a statement, “We’re really sorry to have caused any offence, this was never our intention.”

It is often said in PR that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Greggs possibly knew this, as it is likely advisers in the company realised the risk and potential backlash from using this image, especially when religion and Christmas is involved. Could this be the reason why Greggs issued a statement to the backlash so quickly – was it just a planned controversial PR stunt to gain maximum publicity for Greggs?

I personally found the image funny and quite smart, especially for sausage roll lovers! With many of the main media outlets covering the story, there was reports that Greggs had apparently sold out of sausage rolls following the week of publicity it received. (13 November 2017).

On Twitter #greggsnativity trended for two days after the advertisement was released, giving them maximum unpaid-for publicity. This proves that sometimes provoking a reaction can gain maximum publicity for a brand.

The advertisement also made those who saw the funny side, get involved and create hilarious user generated content in the form of memes on the sausage roll, which was again maximising publicity for the brand.

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Considering Greggs released 500 calendars, only available from 17 stores in the UK, means they were limited and in high demand thanks to the publicity received.

 

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Time will tell how the sales went, however considering the increased demand for Greggs sausage rolls on the week it was released from the heavy amount of media coverage they received, shows that bad publicity, isn’t always a bad thing!

Elizabeth Owens is a final year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be contacted on Twitter @eowens12_ or LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethowens32/