Experts offer 7 smart ways to unleash your pizza box’s marketing potential.

Your pizza box is the one marketing piece every customer loves to receive. Learn how to use it to grab customers’ attention and encourage them to take action.



 

Can you name the only marketing piece in the world that gets hand-delivered to a customer’s home and actually makes them jump off the couch in excitement when it arrives? If you guessed a pizza box, you’re right. So how are you taking advantage of this unusual opportunity to market to your customers where they live? How does your pizza box grab customers’ attention and encourage them to take action?

Your pizzeria undoubtedly delivers hundreds of pizza boxes each week to a captive audience. If you’re missing the mark when it comes to communicating a marketing message via box tops, let’s take a look at seven easy ways you can turn things around—starting today!

 

Have a current offer to blast out to customers quickly? Use sticky advertising on your boxes to reach customers fast.

Make It Sharable. 

Everything is shared on social media nowadays, so why not your pizza box? A plain white box has virtually no chance of being noticed, but what about a box with unusual colors, graphics or a call to action? Scott Wiener, author of Viva la Pizza! The Art of the Pizza Box, says that, on average, 2.5 people see every pizza box, so the more you can get customers to keep or share their boxes, the better. “I’ve seen boxes that have a code inside the top lid of the box asking customers to take a photo of the code and post it to Instagram to win a free pizza,” Wiener says. “Since it’s inside the box, they’re also sharing a photo of your pizza at the same time.”

 

Make It Informative. 

With spam-flooded inboxes, your e-newsletters may make more sense placed on top of your pizza boxes. Pizza Zone (pizzazone.cc) in Spring, Texas, has been putting a newsletter called Box Topper News on its boxes for the past two years. Co-owner Debbie Gainor says that the topper, printed in black and white on brightly colored paper, changes each month and showcases the Pizza of the Month, news, advertising, what’s happening at the store, humor and coupons. “The box toppers that we saw from other pizza shops always looked the same; we wanted to make ours interesting and different,” Gainor says. “When I was a kid, it was always a big deal to read the cereal box while I was eating. I just took that concept to the top of our pizza boxes.” While Gainor admits that Pizza Zone puts the same coupons on the toppers as in its other marketing, she says that the easiest place to get them is on the box toppers. “We see 50% to 60% of our customer base using our coupon offers on a regular basis; I believe the majority comes from the box toppers.”  

“I’ve seen boxes that have a code inside the top lid of the box asking customers to take a photo of the code and post it to Instagram to win a free pizza. Since it’s inside the box, they’re also sharing a photo of your pizza at the same time.” 
—Scott Wiener, Scott’s Pizza Tours
 

New Zealand’s Hell Pizza uses a minimal color scheme in conjunction with bold graphics and witty messages to make their boxes stand out of the crowd.

 

 

Make It Affordable. 

Working within a budget? Create your own toppers like Pizza Zone, or consider co-op advertising. Paul Emm, founder and CEO of Middletown, Delaware-based Box Top Advertising, says the company’s co-op ad box toppers are free to the pizzeria operator. “One side of the box topper advertises a group of noncompeting local businesses, while the other side features the pizzeria’s menu,” Emm says. “No matter what, every pizzeria should be using some kind of pizza box topper. Make it attention-grabbing and rotate it as prices and seasonal specials change.”

 

Make It Valuable. 

Everyone wants to save money, so include coupons or special offers on your boxes whenever possible. Some pizzerias even offer customers the chance to earn a free pizza by clipping a part of the box from each order and saving them until they collect 10, according to Wiener. Meanwhile, don’t assume that your customers know everything on your menu. Including a menu with money saving coupons easily multiplies your chances of reorders and new-item orders.

Marco’s Pizza box instructs customers to “Read My Bottom” and then promotes its freshness guarantee and franchising on the reverse side.

 

Make It Photogenic. 

Ditch the typical red, white and green and opt for a pizza box that makes a statement with cool graphics, interesting colors and a compelling message. The Marco’s Pizza (marcos.com) chain, based in Toledo, Ohio, offers a box with a black-on-white header that says, “Read My Bottom,” pointing customers to the reverse side of the box for full-color graphics and details about the chain’s ingredients and franchising opportunities. Give customers something interesting to read or look at, and they’ll remember you. “Colors like blue and yellow really stand out,” Wiener says. “And everyone likes to take photos of unique boxes, like the ones that break apart into plates. People like anything that’s different.”

 

Make It Interactive. 

Making a pizza box interactive can be as simple as including a box topper with word-search and crossword games, similar to the children’s placemats you used to get at restaurants when you were a kid. “If there are games built into them, the boxes will stay around longer,” Wiener says. “Domino’s (dominos.com) once had a box with a built-in Connect Four game board, and Hell Pizza (hellpizza.com) in New Zealand had a box that loaded a video game on your phone only when you pointed your phone at the box.” Try providing clues to a new menu item or a free offer on the box, with the answer available via a trackable link or QR code that brings customers to your website. Emm says that Box Top Advertising runs a Scan-to-Win $500 Visa gift card contest on every co-op box topper. Once a pizzeria goes through 10,000 toppers, the names and emails of all the opt-in entrants are sent to the pizzeria to aid in future marketing. This is a great way to build an email database using your box toppers.

“The box toppers that we saw from other pizza shops always looked the same; we wanted to make ours interesting and different. When I was a kid, it was always a big deal to read the cereal box while I was eating. I just took that concept to the top of our pizza boxes [with a box top newsletter called Box Topper News].” 
—Debbie Gainor, Pizza Zone

 

Make It Personal. 

We’ve all seen photos of handwritten notes and drawings inside pizza boxes. Think of some fortune-cookie type sayings or simply communicate to customers how much you appreciate them via handwritten script inside the lid of your pizza box. You or your employees can write out these short personal messages while folding your boxes. Imagine the smile on someone’s face when they read your note. More often than not, they’ll tell their friends, and they may even take a picture of the note and post it on social media, giving you bonus exposure.

No matter how you decide to make your pizza box work smarter for you, do something rather than nothing. It’s easy to overlook this little marketing gem; too many pizzerias send out plain cardboard boxes, often without even adding company logos or contact information. It’s time to stop these bad practices. If you’re on a tight budget, create your own box toppers. If you have a little more money to work with, hire an outside vendor or purchase custom boxes. Start benefiting from this direct-to-consumer marketing method; once you do, you’ll never look back. 

 

Liz Barrett is PMQ’s editor at large and author of Pizza: A Slice of American History.

 

 

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