News media have used the language of terror to cover The Great British Bake Off’s move from BBC to Channel 4 – but should consumer brand marketers be worried about the move?


The blissful few weeks respite from “devastating loss” and “outrage” as a result of shock events that we’ve endured this year came to a crashing end today – as the BBC lost The Great British Bake Off to Channel 4 when it fell £10m short in its bid to hold onto the show. I kid you not, moving the show from one terrestrial channel to another was described in the sort of terms we’ve come to expect from a terrorist attack. Clearly, Donald Trump has changed news reporting from merely hysterical to utterly apocalyptic. To discern the trees of reality from the forest of media histrionics, however, what does this move really mean for consumer brand marketers?

Why so serious?

In sharp contrast to the war-like seriousness with which the televised baking competition is reported, many people tune in just for the sexual innuendo, according to Buzzfeed, or presenters Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkin’s insistence on making fun of the whole enterprise. But the show is serious business for retailers and white goods makers alike, with plenty of evidence of Bake Off being one of the most marketable events in the retail calendar.

Kenwood’s sales could hit a soggy bottom

Sales of Kenwood’s KitchenAids mixer crashed 14 per cent when producers swapped the product out – fortunately for Kenwood, its kMix mixer is now used. The brand previously saw sales climbing thanks to the product’s placement within the show, as well as major gains on its social media platforms, according to its Marketing Director, Alex Pickering.

Though PR agencies like Eulogy routinely place products in return for editorial credits on the BBC, paid placement is not possible with ‘Auntie’. On Channel 4, however, product placement opportunities can be bought and indeed the practice is encouraged by Channel 4;  according to its own study, the practice “can shift brand perception.” So Kenwood could suddenly face competition that’s stiffer than meringue peaks and be forced out to a higher bidder (just as the BBC experienced). A brand with deeper pockets might additionally sponsor the show and get further show content too featuring those kitchen products to use across its social channels.

The soufflé like rise in retail sales

Retailers will have it slightly easier – as long as Bake Off’s popularity continues that is. Eulogy client, Summit Media, found that baking product sales soared by 214 per cent in the weeks before the Bake Off season started. Waitrose’s baking buyer Tim Shaw revealed that the two-months of the Great British Bake Off are the third most important event of the year, adding 392 per cent of sales, which puts the event just behind Easter and Christmas, according to a Drum article.

Morrisons has even gone as far as creating “bake officer” – not just a PR stunt, buyer Anastasia Duncanson watches episodes to try and work out what products will catch on in store. Retailers can take advantage in that build up period identified by Summit with pre-planned activity, as well as take more of a guerrilla approach by reacting Morrisons-style to each episode. However, will retailers and brands need to react to any changes in the show’s winning formula now that it’s moving home? And will any changes to the formula impact its popularity?

A change of ingredients could ruin the bake

A hit worldwide, The Great British Bake Off is more appropriately called The Great British Baking Show elsewhere, like America, where it shows on PBS, its’ public broadcaster, as well as Netflix. It has become a hit on both. Like Masterchef, a brand and format also incubated by the BBC, its format has been licensed out and localised. However, only the original has succeeded – the Australian version, The Great Australian Bake Off, and an American knock off, The Great Holiday Baking Show flopped.  As The Independent points out, the move (usually from BBC to ITV) is often one that “twinkles with promise that is rarely fulfilled.”

With rumours that the current hosts, including Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, might not move with the show, it seems that changing the show’s globally winning formula could doom the show – as another tweaked version of a BBC show, Top Gear, also showed. It will be all systems go for marketers when Bake Off launches on Channel 4. However, if the show doesn’t survive the move, and the baking craze sinks sales at retailers, the hysterical language that shrieked at the initial news – the “devastating loss” and “outrage” – might seem not so histrionic after all.


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