Saturday, 25 April 2009

Bunfight at the St Albans Tearooms

Every year, Twelve Thirty Eight provides ten days’ senior consultancy support to a worthy cause. This year, we supported St Albans Cathedral, a major cultural landmark, in three inter-related ways:

1. Raising the profile of the Cathedral with potential tourists
2. Identifying a commercial opportunity that could raise significant funds for the Cathedral
3. Supporting the Cathedral’s
key messages

The key task, of course, in any of our work, is to find a story that delivers all the messages. In the course of our research, we discovered that the Cathedral is the source of the modern British Christian tradition of the Hot Cross Bun. The original Alban Bun was baked and offered to the local poor by Father Thomas Rockliffe, a monk, in 1361. It has been baked at the Cathedral at Easter and offered to local visitors ever since.

Story found – what next?

It seemed to us that the bun was a potential money-spinner, with its unique, secret recipe and distinctive mediaeval taste and andadvised the Cathedral to launch a campaign to reclaim and rename the Hot Cross Bun, restoring a connection with Easter with the original Alban Bun। Clergy at the Cathedral were prepared to talk about the disappearance of a connection between the Hot Cross Bun at Easter given that it is now available all year round, including at Christmas.

We approached and negotiated a partnership with Sainsbury’s who agreed to bake the Buns on a more commercial scale for the Cathedral locally. Buns were made available at the Sainsbury’s store in St Albans and via the Cathedral CafĂ© on Maundy Thursday, with all proceeds going to the Cathedral.

We announced the campaign and the partnership with Sainsbury’s to national, regional and local press and broadcast media. We made the Cathedral and its surroundings available to broadcast crews and we even baked a batch of buns for use in taste tests and as props for broadcast interviews. We arranged photography of the buns and photocalls.

The announcement was covered by the Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, BBC Radio 5 Live, Radio 4’s Sunday programme, 18 regional BBC radio stations, ITV lunchtime news, London Tonight, online and in local and regional press.

The buns were a sell-out within hours, with shoppers travelling from Birmingham, requests by phone from Northern Ireland and expressions of interest from the US. The Cathedral had a flood of visitors expressing interest.

We are hopeful, given the success of this year’s trial, that we may be able to secure a commercial agreement with Sainsbury’s for national sales of the bun in 2010.
Value of the media coverage to date has been, by our calculation, in excess of £50,000. The return on investment has been, well, infinite.

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