“When I was at Pret’’ is a phrase I find myself saying most days (and get the mickey taken out of me for like a stuck record for those who hear it daily). I use the phrase as most days I find myself in a situation where I need to solve a problem, Pret is the best example of how to solve it without fail. I learned more in my 10 months there than in any other business. The focus and confidence of what Pret would and wouldn’t do is an unspoken yet powerful bond that lives with the current teams and anyone lucky enough to work for/with Pret in the past. With the coronavirus I was starting to get incredibly worried for Pret as there was news on downsizing to survive which is worrying, but I was more concerned at their silence from a communications point of view. I should have known/remembered a few things about that:

1) Pret would be busy doing good deeds without needing to promote it

2) Pret is always humble and does not simply and vaccously market it’s way out of situation

3) The teams would all be busy not tweaking, but completely rebooting and rethinking what Pret customers need (not what Pret needs to do for itself).

What a delight (after seeing a couple of questionable tie dye posters ahem) it was to see Pret pitch things perfectly with not just an offer or a discount but an inshop coffee subscription scheme where your first month is free then you pay £20 a month for ‘Unlimited Coffees’. It is not quite unlimited but the devil is in the detail and the terms and conditions of the scheme are fair, measured and would be hard to exploit (at 5 drinks per day with breaks in between like 2 hour parking).

Also when you are in the kindness marketing game you cannot be led by the few who will take advantage negatively but service and focus on the many who will take advantage positively. The cleverness that really pleased ‘marketing me’ is that they have found a bullseye (not dartboard) way to create a whole new business model that works for both customers and company, a footfall driving campaign and a redefinition of what loyalty looks like for the future one fell swoop. We live life in a subscription economy, why would coffee and sandwiches be any different?

Brent Hoberman (my old boss at lastminute.com) once shared a saying with me which went along the lines of “If you do it first, you are doing it for the customer. If you do it second, you are doing it for yourself”. This is Pret’s genius. They only ever do it for the customer.

It is the braveness of the scheme that stunned many competitors/business people and the generosity that has reignited Pret love from their customers. However, as you can imagine Pret are no fools and this will have been risk assessed heavily. You would expect the cost to be 20-30p per drink but the word of mouth, PR value and the fact that people will pick up another item or two with every coffee will be what makes this more than wash its face commercially and be way more than a stunt. I was always told at Pret that we never discount, so finding imaginative ways to create value or incentives to drive business at times you need to drive it is definitely one of the hardest challenges a marketer can face.

The final piece of pleasing surgical strategy maneuvering here is that Pret has the ability and the agility to make it’s coffee (and drinks) a subscription based product as the food is seen as their crown jewels not the coffee. This is something that (in my opinion) Starbucks, Costa, Caffe Nero and any other coffee forward business would be mad to ape as there will be no way back to full price for them for their hero product.

Many others will follow now of course, but it is Pret that have played it perfectly, done a Madonna and made themselves relevant for a whole new generation, yet again.

Wild horses may not drag many into the cities at the moment but (almost) limitless Pret coffee just might. 

Idea – 10/10

Effort vs Return - 10/10

Execution – 10/10

Impact – 10/10

Summary – 10/10. Pret-ty Pret-ty Good