Edit ModuleShow Tags

Pizza Marketing and the Culture of Outrage

Humor can have its place in a pizza business, but take care not to go too far.



The Breakell family in 2009

pizzalchik.com

 

Making people laugh is a tricky business. It can even be risky, as any class smart-aleck who cracked the wrong joke about the wrong kid in elementary school will tell you. I should know—I was that class smart-aleck. Not so much a clown, just a smart-aleck. Clowns can get away with a lot more than smart-alecks. Trust me on that one.

Brad Breakell, owner of Pizzalchik in Boise, Idaho, is a guy who likes to make people laugh and uses his off-the-wall sense of humor to sell pizza. But he has learned the hard way to tread carefully in today’s culture of outrage.

Breakell has created a pantheon of goofy characters for his intentionally corny “Fireside Menu Chat” videos, in which he introduces his weekly specials. Judging by views, likes and shares, his customers love them. A Valentine’s Day video—featuring Breakell as a bizarrely clad Cupid with an awful French accent—garnered more than 4,000 views. Other characters include Amelia Child (a squeaky-voiced cross between Amelia Earhart and Julia Child) and Idiotic Jones (exhausted after his recent escape from the Temple of Doom).

He sings, he dances, he cracks awful jokes and peddles pies, pastas and soups. But, harmless as Breakell’s hokey humor may appear to most, he has twice managed to incite outrage with his characters. As Billy Burrito, denounced by some as a racist stereotype of a Mexican, he donned a sombrero and poncho and smeared his face with brownish makeup. Another character, Jacklyn Jaws, tied into Shark Week, but Breakell’s darkened skin—meant to create a visual contrast with an all-white cardboard cutout of a shark’s head—struck many as a blackface gag.

Breakell has strongly denied any racist intent and released an apology video after the Jacklyn Jaws debacle. Even so, the Huffington Post has called him out twice, generating ugly publicity for a family-friendly pizza shop with a peace-and-love hippie vibe. Meanwhile, local media—print and TV—have also shone a harsh spotlight on Pizzalchik. Chastised but unbowed, Breakell keeps putting out videos, developing new oddball characters and pushing his weekly specials.

Breakell isn’t the first restaurateur to wander into the minefield of political correctness while shooting for laughs. As a marketer, he has the right idea, using video, social media and his own quirky personality to distinguish his brand and connect with his customers authentically. But his errors of judgment and media travails remind us that humor as a marketing strategy can be a double-edged sword, intent doesn’t necessarily matter, and noisy outrage trumps civil discourse every time. As a kid, I paid the price for my so-called wit with a fat lip or two. For a restaurant owner with a livelihood to think about, the penalty could be far worse.

—Rick

 

Edit Module

Tell us what you think at or email.

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Eight Ways to Jump-Start Spring Sales

From Easter through Mother’s Day, here are 8 ways to ring in the spring with seasonal flings and give your sales a jump start.

Tips from the Team: Serving Up the Suds

Sean Dempsey explains how to pour on the profits by adding craft beers to your operation.

Preventing the Pita Effect in Par-Baked Pizzas

Par-baked crusts offer some time-saving advantages, but keep these tips in mind to prevent the formation of pockets.

Old-School vs. Online Marketing: Getting the Best Out of Both

From flyers to Google Ads, Think Tankers share tips and tricks for marketing your pizzeria.

2019: Already a Year to Remember

The U.S. Pizza Team shines on ESPN3

Product Spotlight-March 2019

Maintain a Good Relationship With Your Oven to Avoid Later Heartache

Buying an oven is like getting married—weigh the pros and cons carefully before rushing into a long-term commitment.

Milwaukee-Style Pizza Offers Up Great Options for Pizza & Beer Pairing

You can’t go to Milwaukee and not drink beer. Fortunately, Milwaukee-style pizza was designed with beer drinkers in mind.

Paying Your Pizzeria's Employees Well Can Yield Big Dividends

Derrick Tung, owner of Paulie Gee’s Logan Square in Chicago, details his innovative approach to paying and incentivizing employees—and why his opening night was such a stinker.

Adding Deli Sandwiches Can Kick Up Your Pizzeria's Sales

Thinking of adding a deli component to your pizzeria? These two creative operators explain how sandwich success has kept their pizza businesses booming.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags