Pizza Marketing: Examples of Campaigns to Grow Sales

The Most Effective Pizza Marketing Campaigns

Pizza marketing tends to have a higher-than-average marketing budget, but it doesn’t always take big dollars to create an effective promotions campaign. Here are some of the most effective pizza marketing campaigns the global pizza industry has seen.

Pizza Marketing Twitter Campaign

Listed under the “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” category, Mellow Mushroom presented Twitter followers with an interesting proposition for a recent pizza marketing campaign. Mellow Mushroom claimed, “Follow us and we will follow you… everywhere you go.” The brand features video on their website of their giant bulbous mushroom mascot following Twitter fans around in their daily lives.

Domino’s Marketing Campaign

Domino’s proved their dedication to customer interaction by creating the Ultimate Delivery Vehicle contest for design aficionados. With over $50K in prizes at stake, designs ranged from practical to fantastic as contestants from around the world progressed through individual and collaborative rounds. Students, amateurs, and pros all threw down as the global design community set about finding the coolest way to bring dinner to your door.

Domino's autonomous vehicle

Using Technology to Generate Buzz

U.S. retailer Let’s Pizza, founded in 2009, introduced one of the first pizza vending machines. Save your quarters and you’ll get 24/7 access to $6 pizza piping hot from the lobby or break room.

Pizza vending machine

TV Pizza Marketing Campaigns in Europe

Seeking to attract young male viewers, French television channel created pizza TV. The French MTV, MCM, has set aside music videos for adolescent shows. And for each show they’ve made a matching pizza. For the monster trucks, double everything. For the zombie show, all bloody meats. Car wash babes pizza? Hot spicy sauce and white cream.

Pizza Promotion Taking a Political Stance

Texas pizza chain, Pizza Patron, took a unique approach to pizza marketing when they offered customers a free pizza if they placed their orders entirely in Spanish. The controversial marketing tactic was launched at a time when political candidates were advocating fences and troops on the border. Pizza Patron, which also accepts pesos for payment from its 75% Latino customer base, answered by reaching out. The lesson? Controversy can sometimes sell pies.

Marketing with the Menu

Can’t decide between pizza and burgers? Pizza Hut started a pizza marketing campaign that offers Middle Eastern customers “hybrid” pizzas. The stuffed crust design features a dozen mini cheeseburgers baked into the crust of the pizza. Other offerings from Pizza Hut worldwide include a chicken sandwich hybrid pizza, a chicken/cheese stick combination, and, in the U.K., a hot dog stuffed crust pizza.

Pizza hamburger

Domino’s Marketing with the Truth

Domino’s wanted to hear it all! The chain decided to start a pizza marketing campaign where they post all customer reviews — good, bad, or indifferent — on their 4,630-square-foot billboard in Times Square in real-time, no edits, no hiding.

Dominos campaign times square

Brand Transparency to Help Promote Sales

Then Domino’s doubled down on their pizza marketing with brand transparency when they allowed consumers to post pictures of their unretouched, recently delivered, “naked” pizzas right on the brand’s website. The theory behind this “real beauty campaign” was to give customers a Photoshop-free look at how the chain’s menu items actually look upon delivery.

Pizza Hut Marketing

Pizza is the compulsive web browser’s dinner of choice and the battle for those tech-savvy dollars is raging online. Pizza Hut recently began a pizza marketing campaign that placed a series of special offers directly onto Yahoo News’ mobile website. Utilizing GPS targeted tagging, viewers were allowed to order delivery from their nearest Pizza Hut by clicking on the ad. Domino’s answer was a 50% discount for any browser ordering via the company’s mobile platform. Papa John’s entered the fray with an online expansion of their popular Papa Rewards program. Online or smartphone orders receive one point per $5 spent. 25 points equals a free pizza.

Make Your Own Pizza Campaign

Domino’s escalated the pizza marketing battle with their “Pizza Hero” game which makes a pizza chef of anyone with an iPad.  Using the app, customers build a pizza from the dough up on their tablets then send it as an order to their local Domino’s. Perfect for those long commutes home when both dinner and the Xbox seem so far away.

Pizzerias Involved with Cause Marketing

Domino’s took a charitable approach to their pizza marketing when they solicited donations for Saint Jude Children’s Research Hospital via SMS text messaging. The text code was printed on pizza boxes, flyers, and more. Once a customer sent the code in via text messaging, their donation was charged to their phone bill.

St Jude donation SMS

Papa Murphy’s Pizza Marketing

The mother of all pizza marketing loyalty programs sends special offers, coupons, and social media posts directly to customers’ phones. Papa Murphy’s expanded their text messaging club from one test market to 26 different states and, in doing so, grew their list of opt-in users to over 100K. This mother of all loyalty programs sends special offers, coupons, and social media posts directly to customers’ phones. Regular data rates may apply but regular ad rates do not.

QR Codes in Marketing Campaigns

Midwest pizza chain Minsky’s offers started a pizza marketing campaign that gives patrons the chance to win big prizes by scanning QR codes found at the restaurant. Users can download a special smartphone app and scan codes found on tabletops and signage. Winners get free pizza and appetizers.

Pizza Promotions with Freebies

Domino’s teamed up with Foursquare (okay, we know this one is dated but it was cool) to promote foot traffic to its locations. Those who “checked-in” the most using the social media app earn the title of “mayor” and win a free small pizza.

Using Technology to Increase Sales

Dubai’s Red Tomato Pizza issued a “VIP Magnet.” The refrigerator magnet includes a push button that will order a pre-selected pizza after it is pressed. The button works via a Bluetooth connection to a smartphone app, which then sends a confirmation text message. Minutes later, your push button dinner arrives at the door.

Fridge Button to buy pizza

Domino’s Marketing Campaign in Europe

While some European authorities are concerned that soundless electric scooters are a hazard to pedestrians, Domino’s has taken it upon themselves to create a solution. Their soundless scooter randomly emits a recording, shouting “Pizza!” and “Domino’s!”

Domino's motorcycle

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Pizza Marketing Gravitating Towards MarTech

The investments required to follow in Domino’s footsteps may seem daunting — to aspire to forge an even more ambitious path forward may seem downright dubious — however, the prize for getting it right has already proven well worth the risk.

Line chart for International sales growth and pie charts for share of growth of SSS vs new stores

In 2011, Domino’s Pizza was growing by 13.5% internationally. New stores and increases in same-store sales equally accounted for that growth. In contrast, the chain grew by 16.2% in 2017, the majority (~75%) of which came from new units.

This has stimulated the pizza category chiefs to stoke their systems (and inspired other categories and segments of foodservice) with stronger marketing budgets, largely into the convergence of marketing and technology, or “MarTech.”

Based on franchisee contributions, the largest pizza chains have a marketing budget of 3.9% of sales. Quick-service companies go above and beyond this number, spending a median 4.6% of sales on marketing. Among QSR brands, some of the largest pizza chains — such as Papa John’s, Domino’s, and Little Caesars — have the heaviest marketing spend.

Bar chart with marketing spend as percentage of sales for restaurant chains

And while these companies are exerting their global ambitions, they are clear that the fight for dominance will also play out on a block-by-block, delivery-zone-by-delivery-zone basis. Pizza chains are focusing more than a third of their efforts on local-store marketing, with pizza franchisees contributing an average of 6.5% of sales to both local and national efforts.

bar chart with franchisees marketing contribution by category

These chains’ focus on marketing underlines the fact that the battle for share of stomach isn’t just about tech gadgetry. It’s also about connecting with guests to develop the kind of brand loyalty that keeps systems vibrant in the long term. Another proof point: in order to boost sales in the UK, Pizza Hut isn’t turning to promotions or discounts; they’ve hired a new marketing leader who can help develop targeted campaigns.

About Aaron Allen & Associates

Aaron Allen & Associates works alongside senior executives of the world’s leading foodservice and hospitality companies to help them solve their most complex challenges and achieve their most ambitious aims. We have helped clients with deep-dive corporate intelligence, portfolio optimization strategies, data-driven diagnostics, advanced analytics, and holistic approaches to business and brand strategy.

Our clients span six continents and 100+ countries, collectively posting more than $300b in revenue. Across 2,000+ engagements, we’ve worked in nearly every geography, category, cuisine, segment, operating model, ownership type, and phase of the business life cycle.