Percy Pig: A Marketing Phenomenon?
Marks and Spencer has been on the high street since the 1800s. Although they have many brand loyal customers that shop their aisles for high quality produce, snacks, fashion and alcohol, especially in the lead up to the festive season, when we as a nation love to indulge. However, what is peculiar is what the company is currently known for. Some may say the Colin the Caterpillar cake controversy. Others, however, would highlight their iconic fictional figure: Percy Pig.
Percy has been a part of Marks and Spencer for twenty-five years, and although that is a mere fraction of the time the company has been around, he is a figure of familiarity and longevity, similar to his wiggly friend Colin the Caterpillar, who was introduced in 1990.
Percy Pig was originally a part of the Marks and Spencer sweets aisle, the gummy sweets featuring alongside your candy kiosk staples. Similar to Colin, Percy has his own range of products that span from the original chewy sweet. Where Colin the Caterpillar has chocolates, mini-rolls, a chocolate spread, and has recently spread his wings to feature in the sweet aisle with fizzy gummies, and sour gummies, Percy has gone down a different route.
Percy has been extending his universe to include more characters since 2002, when Percy Pig and Pals sweets included cola cows and orange and strawberry flavoured sheep, along with the original figure himself. In 2013, he married a vanilla and lemon flavoured pig called Penny, and added her to the line, too. Once again, in 2014, Percy added two more characters to the sweets line: Poppy Panda, who is flavoured with blackcurrants, and Timmy Tiger, who tastes of mango. This increasing momentum, and storytelling with Percy’s character, from a marketing perspective was a risk that certainly appears to have paid off. By featuring Percy Pig, people who are fans of the sweets, are likely to feel inclined to take a risk on the new flavoured candies, because, if nothing else, a fraction of the sweets in the packet will be familiar, and enjoyable.
For Percy, and Marks and Spencer, what was once a sweet, has become a mascot-like figure for the company, well associated with the brand, and allowing their marketing department to try new things with their products, with a sense that there will be a demand, whether mild or massive, from superfans, at the very least. He even has his own department on the Marks and Spencer website, giving his audience the opportunity to browse the merchandise made about their favourite candy mascot. His range of products varies in prices of between £5 and £100, however, the majority of the products lie between the lesser range of £5 and £30, and, niche as some of the products appear, the best sellers certainly would appear surprising, with duvet sets, children’s slippers and throw blankets ranking higher than pet toys and bath bombs.
You may wonder how, since Percy Pig is not advertised as having new merchandise on television, how this interest is retained, and, Marks and Spencer have certainly been boosted by the presence of superfans on social media platforms such as TikTok. In September of 2020, for example, Marks and Spencer released a 90cm plush of Percy Pig for £25, and, TikTok’s video archives show that numerous young adults, who grew up around this figure of Percy, purchased the large pink plush.
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