Analysis & Opinion, Work

Five lessons for marketers from Naked Pizza

October 25, 2011 MullenLowe

Last week a couple of brand planners from Mullen met with Peter Biro, franchisee-owner of Naked Pizza’s Boston locations (Brookline and Brighton). As they are one of our #goodbellyproject participating restaurants, we were naturally inclined to order lunch from them. However, one of the senior planners in our group, Janene Lin, decided to also invite Peter and one of the managers in to have a lunch-and-learn session with some members of our team. Not only was I personally fascinated with their story, but I also believe that brands could learn a lot from Naked Pizza. Below I have summarized five key takeaways from the lunch (these are my takeaways and are not necessarily direct quotes from Peter).

  1. Don’t take yourself too seriously. As he put it, “If you’re not getting almost arrested at least twice a week, you’re probably not a fit for our sales team.” Peter’s team is encouraged to use whatever marketing tactics they would have the most fun doing. For example, some of them have carried traditional signage as an umbrella over customers’ heads to walk them into the store. Others have danced on top of vending machines with the signage.
  2. Strong culture is the way to cultivate a consistent brand without controlling everything. After Peter mentioned the shenanigans that he encourages his employees to partake in, and the resulting social media content, I asked him how he balances brand consistency with customer and employee participation in the brand. He believes that a strong culture is the best guide for brand consistency. If strong culture is there, you don’t have to worry about policing, because everyone understands what best represents the brand.
  3. If you don’t stand for something, you will die. In an age of great access to funding, information and people, Peter believes that if a brand doesn’t clearly stand for something, it becomes vanilla and will die. In the case of Naked Pizza, they took a stand within the category and suggested that pizza doesn’t necessarily have to be unhealthy. To stand by that belief, they create relatively healthy pizza from organic, quality ingredients. In a saturated pizza market, Naked Pizza stands for quality and well-being.
  4. Good and authentic content creation comes from within. Instead of hiring social media content creators or paying influential digerati, Naked Pizza Boston empowers their staff to create content on behalf of their brand. Many of the fun sales and marketing tactics also serve as entertaining social content.
  5. You don’t need to be perfect all the time; just learn from mistakes as quickly as possible. As a result of his software background, Peter understands the value of iteration. Yes, we’re all sick of the word, but so far this understanding of “failing fast” has served Peter and Naked Pizza.

Peter has a background in software engineering, but I would argue that he knows more about modern branding than many advertising agency executives.