We talk a lot about the power of marketing and advertising to drive growth for brands. It is the table stakes talk at ad conferences, and frequently goes something like this: “Our brand had gotten a bit tired, a new marketing team came in, hired a new agency, we did lots of focus groups, put together new brand treatments, new creatives, we launched a big campaign -- and, voila, all of our brand metrics went up. Hooray for us.”
I don’t want to sound too cynical here, nor to diminish that kind of of work. It’s hard, and it doesn’t always take effect. And, as I said, it is table stakes in this business.
However, sometimes you hear a story that transcends all of that, where marketing and advertising done right accomplished amazing feats. I heard one of those stories earlier this week at MediaPost’s TV & Video Insider Summit in Austin, when Stephanie Hoppe, CMO of Cicis Pizza, and Kay Wesolowski, senior vice president of investments & partnerships at Kelly Scott Madison, took the stage and talked about their work in bringing Cicis, the buffet pizza chain, back from years of declining sales, debilitating losses and bankruptcy, after COVID closed all of their stores and put them into liquidation.
How did they do it? First, as a company, leadership realized that they needed to embrace their buffet identity. The previous team kept trying to “run away” from buffet dining, perceiving that it was “down market.”
Second, Hoppe engaged new agency partners, who worked toward rebuilding the brand and executing a new communications and advertising strategy. Together, they decided to “go bold” with a new brand identity, developing a mascot: C.C. Pazzini, a P.T. Barnum-like character with a flying machine.
They decided on a new customer segment to focus all of their efforts on: multitasking moms. They built a multichannel media plan that focused on moments that matter, understanding that these moms were very driven by crazy, hectic parenting schedules. And they implemented an always-on, test-and-learn approach so that they could measure everything and constantly try and test new ideas.
They were open about the risks they took. Their multitasking mom segment had only represented 10% of the pizza chain’s business historically. Could they afford to bet everything on that group, who didn’t even know their stores or products?
They didn’t test their creative. They had no time. They also knew that it might not test well: a four-inch-tall C.C. Pazzini flying his machine over open buffet food trays and pizzas.
They had to recreate store and product experience, shoot video commercials, and launch the campaign to support the reopening of 300 stores. And they did it all in weeks, not months.
They crushed it, building a video-everywhere strategy leveraging linear and streaming TV and social and web video. In the first month of launch, they delivered 322 million video impressions, 1.6 million web visits, 550,000 trackable store visits, 3 to 1 return on advertising spend, and same-store sales up 25%.
Better yet, they have continued to drive 10% plus same stores sales growth post-launch.
Most importantly, the pizza chain is reborn, thriving, and has refound itself in its core essence, a buffet-style pizza chain with affordable pricing.
I attend many conferences, so I can say with confidence that this is one of the best pieces of marketing, branding and advertising work that I have seen presented in years. Certainly it’s the strongest with multichannel video. I’ve seen. I can’t wait to see what Cicis Pizza does next. I am sure that it will be powerful.