Pizza Expo Exclusive
Innovation by the Slice
By Doug Ferriman
Innovation gives you the ability to constantly re-invent and re-energize your brand, keeping you fresh and new in the customers’ minds while creating longevity for your business. I will touch on how innovation is critical to our slice business when combined with maximizing social media, improving customer service, creating customer excitement and ultimately building brand equity.
The world of social media at first can be overwhelming, but once you’ve seen the light on how effective it is in building brand awareness, you will never go back. Talking about and taking pictures of our innovations is how we maximize social media. Every week we create a “crazy pizza.” We dream up, say, a barbecue short rib and goat cheese pie, or a tequila lime shrimp pie, and we take a picture of it and immediately send it to all social media with a message. The message has a catchy headline followed by a delicious-sounding description of the ingredients and how they’re prepared. This does a few things: It makes people think about our pizza, thus encouraging them come in to try a slice; but more importantly, it gives us a platform to really sell our brand by talking about our quality ingredients.
Customer excitement about your product is what it’s all about! My goal is to get people excited about my brand, and the slice business and its innovations is how we do it. Every day we are experimenting with different pizzas to put in the case for display, so our cases are always full of a wide variety of color, cheeses, veggies, meats and crazy combinations—with the sole purpose of getting customers enthused.
We opened a store in the entrance to TD Garden, which is home to the Bruins and Celtics, and the pre-game rush is a great time for me to blend into the crowd and eavesdrop on customers eating the pizza. I track a customer as he or she walks up to the pizza case. I observe their reaction to the colorful offerings. Then I hover near them as they are eating to get real time uncensored feedback on the product.
Often, I approach those people and offer a coupon for their next visit as a thank you. But most importantly I am observing and listening to them. If their eyes aren’t wide as they approach the case and they aren’t happy as they eat, then I know we are not getting them excited about the product and appropriate training action is required. This is my inspiration to do what I do. My inspiration is to get people excited about looking at and eating my pizza. Innovation gets people excited!
Another opportunity for innovation is through seasonal or special-event pizza offerings. During the summer months, I experiment with seafood pies; then, I might follow the seasons with an autumn pizza featuring pureed sweet potato and a winter with hearty pot roast as an ingredient. Seasonal pizzas can also create the perception of using fresh local ingredients, which is a way of demonstrating the passion you have for your trade.
Special events can be another outlet for creativity. When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup this year, first of all I lost my mind; but second, we created a pizza replicating the Bruins logo and put it in the pizza case. People loved it. Sure, we didn’t really sell too many of those slices, but sometimes you don’t need to sell them if they’re creating the buzz you are looking for.
When it’s all said and done and you’ve completed that 16-hour day, finished cleaning the flour off your shoes and turned off the hood, how much brand equity have you earned today? Brand equity is that hard-fought and intangible thing that makes people choose you over the other guy. And it comes to those who think and act innovatively.
See Doug Ferriman at International Pizza Expo® / Click Here to Register for Pizza Expo
Doug Ferriman derives approximately 90 percent of revenues from sales of slices at his most recently opened Crazy Dough’s Pizza units in Boston. He’ll give a seminar at Pizza Expo 2012 on slice production, display, marketing, food costs and other necessities for slice success.