THE 14TH ANNUAL SHORTY AWARDS

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The Crust The World Craves

Entered in Humor, Launch Campaign

Objective

For two years we listened to people relentlessly beg for Pretzel Crust pizza, a product that’s as unique as its small community of loud “Rabid Fans”. When we decided to bring it back to menus, we knew we had to up our game and deliver the news in the most Little Caesars (crazy fun!) way possible, that paid tribute to these fans’ undying love. Unknown to Pretzel Crust fanatics, our plan involved taking advantage of their passion to help spread our news and drive sales. How? We enraged them by making a product they never asked for: Corn Cob Crust! For the skeptics out there, we committed to the bit by giving Corn Cob pizzas to food reviewers and influencers, while simultaneously running a fake launch with Eric Wareheim. The internet was bought in on our stunt, buzzing with rage, confusion, and excitement (people wanted to try it!). Once we had everyone's (fans and non-fans) attention, we formally apologized, promising the return of the beloved Pretzel Crust. Our social stunt accomplished everything we set out to do. We drove awareness, captured conversation in a way that even we couldn’t have anticipated, increased product trial, and ultimately helped Little Caesars set record sales.

Strategy

After two years of Little Caesars Pretzel Crust being off our menus, we were thrilled it was returning, especially since rabid fans regularly begged for it in our comments. On top of that, we had challenges we had to overcome: Increasing awareness of the product beyond the close-knit circle of established fanatics, increasing overall sales, and maintaining consistent sales throughout the run window to prove that Pretzel Crust was a product worth keeping on our menus full-time.  

From the get-go, we knew we had to reward fans for their undying love for the product, and as we looked closely into their online behavior, we found their engagement in the comments peaked every time we added a product to our menus that was not their beloved Pretzel Crust. So we decided to use that passion to drive conversations and intrigue non-Pretzel Crust fans to join in. We knew social proof would get more people to trial the product because people trust people, simple!  

To amplify our fan’s existing behavior, we planned to release a fake product. We worked with the Little Caesars product development team to create a pizza that rode the line between being believable and farcical. Where we landed: Corn Cob Crust. A pizza base with corn cobs for the crust, complete with a sprinkle of corn and cheese toppings, sold with a 2L bottle of liquid butter. 

The mission was to get people to believe this was real and elicit very real outrage. We doubled down by developing a full launch campaign, including live-action videos (featuring Eric Wareheim!), food-forward video content, social content, food reviewers, and a PR blitz to announce the fake product. It was important to introduce Corn Cob Crust like we would any other product.

For one week, we released nothing but Corn Cob Crust content across PR, digital video, and social. To legitimize it, we leveraged TikTok influencers to “review” Corn Cob Crust. People were confused and outraged, but they were clamoring for Pretzel Crust. Most importantly, we started a conversation. 

We launched Pretzel Crust one week later with a packaged PR apology for the fake pizza, admitting to fans that we were wrong all along. But were we? No. Our plan worked! We drove conversation above and beyond our KPIs and ultimately managed to create the most successful product campaign in Little Caesars history.

Results

Our objectives: drive sales and get attention for Pretzel Crust.

While we can’t get into specific sales numbers here (check the confidential section), Pretzel Crust sales were strong and sustained through 12 weeks, outperforming all forecasts. It was the most successful product campaign in company history. As a result, Little Caesars decided to keep Pretzel Crust on menus permanently. 

From an awareness standpoint, brand tracker research showed that campaign awareness increased from 35% +/- before the campaign to 72% product awareness after the campaign. 

Owned social content exceeded engagement rate KPIs, averaging an 8.4% ER across TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter compared to our 5.0% benchmark.  Owned content and influencer videos resulted in 1.5MM total shares throughout the entire campaign. 

Corncob Crust was a huge factor to our success. Our like-to-share ratio of owned TikTok content was nearly 1:1, meaning that our audience not only loved our content, but they spread it like wildfire (290k likes to 278k shares). We also earned 31k total comments, which is more TikTok comments than ALL of 2022 (30.5k).

Our Branded Mission earned 226MM hashtag views, averaged a 16.1% boosted Engagement Rate (compared to 11.6% benchmark) and earned a +26.0% ad recall, which is significantly greater than the Kantar QSR benchmark of +6.9%.

Gaining 100k followers on TikTok throughout the campaign (+22% follower increase) indicated the success of a thoughtful narrative, influencer content and a Branded Mission towards our goal of gaining momentum and attracting newcomers.

Media

Video for The Crust The World Craves

Entrant Company / Organization Name

McKinney, Little Caesars

Link

Entry Credits