Recently lots of brands have jumped on the merchandise band wagon to offer new and one- of-a-kind products to their consumers. Last Christmas, food brands brought their a-game and we saw it all, from crumpet slippers to pizza shaped blankets.
When it comes to branded merchandise, one brand that’s really taken things to the next level with one of their beloved characters is Marks and Spencer and the infamous Percy Pig.
In 29 years (yes, he really has been around for that long), Percy Pig has transformed from being a simple confectionary to having his own line of pyjamas, face masks, bed linen, reusable carrier bags and much more.
Before we delve further into whether this is a great example of how-to maximise a product and brand, let’s first look back at the evolution of this fruity pig-shaped sweet.
Percy’s rise from farm to fame
Rewind the clock to 1992 to find Percy Pig on the shelves for the first time in M&S stores across the UK. Although things were a little slow from the get-go, in 2002 things started to look up for beloved Percy as some new farmyard friends joined him on the scene.
On his 21st birthday, in 2013, he fell in love and married lemon-flavoured Penny and from then on, his luck changed. Percy went on a whirlwind adventure across the globe, started celebrating for big holidays like easter and Christmas and eventually, welcomed his own family of piglets.
Present day Percy
Despite being a major player in the M&S food hall for 28 years, 2020 was Percy’s best and most fun year to date. Last year, the Percy brand thrived as the creative minds at M&S developed a whole new range of products that, as a recent article on the Independent1 stated, saw the sale of the sweets rise by 40%. Although 2020 was a turbulent year many would like to forget, the new range of products became incredibly popular across the UK. Bringing Percy Pig to life (quite literally with a custom Percy mascot) might have been the bit of light-relief and fun that many people needed and were looking for after enduring months of lockdown. Who can refuse a sweet delicious treat and a friendly face after all?
The ingredients of Percy’s success
As someone who enjoys the occasional bag (or two) of the traditional Percy Pig sweets, it has been interesting to take a closer look at how this product has been cleverly changed to tie back to big occasions throughout the year.
The bright colours and smiley face are part of what makes the brand so loveable and because of that it’s easy to see how the merchandise could really grab the attention of those hard-core Percy fans.
Although the merchandise probably isn’t something I’d pick up or buy for myself, I think some of their creations could certainly make nice presents for younger children, who admittedly, is the group they’re targeting.
Percy Pig products are launched
M&S adopted the approach go big or go home last year, and really hit the ground running with different Percy merchandise, even though he’s been around for almost 30 years.
The merchandise they’ve created is well suited to their target audience because it’s fun, colourful and is fronted by a friendly face, something that’s important for any product designed for children.
Another key element of Percy’s success is how the brand and character connects with both parents and children. Creating products that tie back to special holidays and occasions, like this years’ valentine’s day bouquets and pink Percy pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, will also appeal to parents because they know it’ll be something their children will love and enjoy.
Percy’s popularity grows
Although there’s been some mixed reactions on social media to some of the new products launched within the last year, the majority of consumers seem excited by the new ideas that M&S are creating, as their announcements get lots of shares and engagement on social. With his increasing popularity, M&S even set up an Instagram account for the beloved Percy who has a strong following of 44,000!
As the face of the original confection, it’s unsurprising to see Percy being printed on pyjamas, bedding, tea towels, fleeces and pillows. He adds personality and fun which makes the brand more memorable than the product itself. It’s common to see popular children’s characters appear on merchandise, and with the surge of sales last year, it makes sense for M&S to maximise the character in this way.
Consumers seem more unsure about the new Percy Pig flavoured food products. To stay on brand, the food items are predominantly pink and this seems to be a step too far for some fans, of the Percy brand, who have aired their thoughts on Twitter. This could be because pink food is associated with being unnatural and therefore, unhealthy2 but as he started off as a sugary treat, surely you’d not expect anything less from Percy? Bright pink desert sauce, pink pancakes and giant Percy Pig birthday cakes won’t count towards your five a day but they are true to the original brand.
Get to grips with a product like Percy for success
Any brand, whether big or small, that’s looking to launch a new product will need to have a well thought out approach if they want to create the same longevity from a product’s merchandise range like Percy Pig.
Over almost three decades, the brand has been building gradually. The most recent products could be something the consumer has wanted and expected to see for many years. Even Percy himself has grown along the way and a narrative to tell his story has been developed to bring him to life and make him a recognisable and loveable character.
To execute something similar, brands should take note of M&S’ approach. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking almost 30 years to start building the brand and creating new products and merchandise but instead, taking the time to understand your consumer. Get to grips with what they like, what they’ll enjoy and be receptive too before going out into the world with merchandise.
There’s no doubt that after all these years’ M&S had a bank full of knowledge and endless data about their target audience. Tapping into this insight to help plan and create a new line of products and merchandise is almost certainly one of the reasons why they saw such a big boost in their sales last year!
What’s next for Percy? Well, we’ll have to wait and see but, if this past 12 months has taught us anything, there’s lots more fun ideas to be unleashed and his 30th birthday will definitely be a great excuse to create something special to celebrate his big milestone next year!
Information about the Percy Pig’s product timeline can be found online at: https://www.marksandspencer.com/c/food-to-order/percy-pig