A Slice of Facebook With Your Pizza – New Marketing Strategy

Great things seem to go together effortlessly. Peanut butter and jelly, baseball and hotdogs, Lennon and McCartney – all are terrific combinations. Once again, two popular things are being paired in an effort to create excitement, entice customer participation and reinvigorate a brand. Papa John’s is teaming up with Facebook (pizza and Facebook – likely to be another winning combination) and inviting fans to create the next specialty pizza. After all, who better to create a new, delicious pie than the pizza lovers themselves? ‘Papa John’ himself will select three finalists and the highest selling creation will be declared the winner.

This promotion couldn’t have come at a better time. Papa John’s marketing efforts have been somewhat sluggish lately, especially compared to one top competitor. Dominos recently launched a major advertising campaign and, at least for now, its strategy is working. After admitting its pizza was pretty awful, Dominos created a buzz around its new product and people are just curious enough to try its “new and improved” pizza. Sales have increased, but the big question remains: Will this interest last? We’ll just have to wait and see what Dominos does next.

Papa John’s is taking it’s own approach to get customers involved. While the idea of soliciting input from fans isn’t original (Mountain Dew is currently holding a similar contest), I think it’s a great idea for Papa John’s. Especially because the not-so-original idea is being backed by a fairly unique strategy – the promotion is taking place entirely in Facebook. No television ads. No radio spots. Not even a direct mail piece. By taking this route, Papa John’s gets increased traffic to its Facebook page and a flood of new fans that will likely tell their friends, post comments and start discussions. This type of word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful vehicle and it’s the reason why so many companies create a Facebook page. On another note, I can only imagine how little this promotion is costing Papa John’s. With Facebook being more popular than – well, anything right now – its likely the company is reaching every relevant demographic through this single medium.

When the three finalists are selected, the new pizza creations will undoubtedly be heavily promoted. Will Papa John’s expand its efforts beyond Facebook at that point? Who knows? It may not need to – especially judging by the number of entries already submitted just a few weeks into the contest. The idea of three new pizzas may entice just enough curiosity to get people to try each new pie. And again, as with Dominos, only time will tell if interest lingers long enough to have a real lasting impression. Granted, such a promotion may not work for equipment, but there are certainly ways to incorporate some of the basic principles into any marketing campaign. Maybe you give customers the opportunity to name your newest piece of equipment. After all, everyone has a great idea from time to time – give them a chance to have fun and be creative! How could you make this concept of customer involvement work for your company?

Also, what are your thoughts on Papa John’s strategy to promote solely in Facebook – risky or brilliant? What other products would be highly successful in this arena?