Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?
After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
It was, depending on your tolerance for social media cuteness, a stroke of marketing genius, or an exchange that was as cloying as an iced bun topped with a glacé cherry. It also revealed a lot about how a bakery founded in Newcastle almost 70 years ago defied food snobs to become bigger than McDonald's.
First, the exchange. On Tuesday, Twitter users noticed something amiss in Google's profile of Greggs. The panel, which appears alongside results when you search "Greggs", carried the usual Wikipedia intro ("Greggs plc is the largest bakery chain in the United Kingdom, with 1,671 outlets...) but the wrong logo. Trawling the web, a Google bot had taken one from a Wikipedia parody site. The offensive slogan: "Providing shit to scum for over 70 years" (in place of "Always Fresh. Always Tasty").
At Greggs HQ in Jesmond, Newcastle, digital brand manager Neil Knowles had become aware of the cock-up not long after arriving at his desk. Within a couple of hours, it had gone viral as thousands of users shared it with glee. This was potentially embarrassing and damaging for the brand. So how to respond? Sue Google? Issue a corporate statement? Or, like a stale biscuit served up by an ageing relative, swallow it and let things settle?
None of the above. Instead, as the lol-filled tweets piled up, Knowles posted a photo to Greggs' 88,000 followers: a tray of doughnuts. The words: "Hey @GoogleUK, fix it and they're yours!!! #FixGreggs". Taking just 28 minutes to craft its response, Google UK's nameless digital guys replied: "Sorry @GreggstheBakers, we're on it. Throw in a sausage roll and we'll get it done ASAP. #FixGreggs". Their photo: Homer Simpson distracted by doughnuts while at work.
Just two minutes later, at 3:32pm, Knowles replied: "We love you Google!!!!" whilst also responding to scores of consumer tweets. At 3:47pm, at last, the crisis was over. "That's all done now @GreggstheBakers, #FixGreggs is now #FixedGreggs," Google tweeted. But Knowles was on a roll. "Aaaand relax! Maybe those kind folks @GoogleUK could give us the doodle tomorrow?" he tweeted. He had arranged 25 sausage rolls into the word "Google" in the attached photo.
Read more: Greggs falls afoul of Google's algorithms
But wait, there was more. Another 37 minutes ticked by and Google posted a picture. Despite the demands of representing one of the world's biggest companies, it had found an almost identical round table, laid the same pieces of paper on it, and scattered them with pastry flakes. The message: "Whoops! Sorry @GreggstheBakers. #FixGreggs #FixedGreggs #AteGreggs."
What are we to make of all this? Not much. But it was a great day for Knowles. He has now been hailed, if not by name, as a genius for averting a potential crisis and swapping top bants with Google. "Greggs gives lesson in Twitter crisis management," read a headline at PR Week. Campaign magazine distilled this lesson: "Act fast; react like a human; build on the situation."
There was a sense of surprise, too, that Greggs had displayed such social media savvy, out-tweeting Google. This wasn't a tech company with roots in Silicon Valley, but a bakers from the North-east. What founder John Gregg would have made of it is anyone's guess. He was 14 when he began delivering eggs for the family business in the 1920s. He later acquired a van and in 1951 opened a bakery on Gosforth high street.
Not everyone was that impressed. "What really surprises me is that people think this is an amazing thing," says Mark Longbottom, a social media consultant. "It's just natural – they're talking to people... Twitter isn't so much a marketing tool as a platform for conversation."
Knowles had called me in response to my enquiry, but when asked about his triumph, he politely explained that he couldn't provide quotes unless they were authorised by his head of marketing. I would need to email questions and wait.
Either way, his answers did not arrive in time and, whatever the merit of his tweets, or any effect they might have on pastry sales, at the time of writing Google had not redrawn its logo in sausage rolls.
Life & Style blogs
How old is your heart? US research finds three out of four people have hearts five years older than their actual age
iPhone 6s Plus photos: leaks show Force Touch display, subtly altered size
Huawei Mate S and Huawei Watch: new products take on iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch
How to discover who your best friends are on WhatsApp - using a tool within the application
What do the emojis on Snapchat mean?
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
- 1 Huawei Mate S and Huawei Watch: new products take on iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch
- 2 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
- 3 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 4 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 5 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
£55000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
£38000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Design and build advanced appli...