License to advertise: Discover the marketing power of your delivery vehicles.

It’s a proven fact that pizzeria orders increase when a delivery vehicle sporting advertising signage drives through a neighborhood.



Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria makes a big statement—and garners a ton of attention—by placing huge pizza boxes on top of tiny cars.

Big Mama's & Papa's Pizzeria

 

With more than 73,000 pizzerias in the United States and roughly 60% of those pizzerias offering delivery, we can estimate that, at bare minimum, there are at least 43,800 pizza delivery vehicles driving around America’s neighborhoods on a busy Saturday night. So why don’t we see more independent pizzerias sporting car swag? What’s holding you back from fully utilizing vehicle advertising to increase orders and build your brand? It’s a proven fact that pizzeria orders increase when a delivery vehicle with advertising pulls into a neighborhood.

Richard Ames, owner of Daddio’s Pizzeria (daddios.ca) in Grand Prairie, Alberta, Canada, has been using vehicle advertising since he opened Daddio’s in 2005. “If you look at the cost of vehicle advertising compared to a static billboard, you’ll likely find the costs per month to be lower for the vehicle,” Ames says. “The advantage of a vehicle is that it’s going where your customers are, as opposed to being part of the background clutter or ‘visual noise’ on the side of the road.”

Daddio’s Pizzeria stands out through the use of reflective decals and carefully planned placement of its vehicle for maximum exposure to passersby.

 

“Our wrapped cars make us unique and provide great brand recognition,” says Aro Agakhanyan, CEO of Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria (bigmamaspizza.com), with 20 locations in Los Angeles and two planned for Dubai at the end of the year. “We have a special warmer inside the giant pizza box atop our small cars that keeps our record-holding 54”-by-54” giant Sicilian pizzas hot during delivery.”

But some operators avoid vehicle advertising for very specific reasons, notes Lawrence Joy, vice president of marketing for Domino’s Team New Mexico (dominosnm.com), a franchisee with 36 locations in New Mexico and two in southern Colorado. “We bought 11 stores last year from a franchisee who refused to use car toppers because he thought they made drivers a target,” Joy says. “Since we took over and installed toppers on all of the delivery vehicles, sales have increased in every store.”

Your delivery vehicles—company- or driver-owned—may currently be an untapped source of free advertising, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. Low-cost options can be up and running in a matter of days, paying for themselves thanks to increased local brand recognition and new pizza orders. 

If you’re just beginning to experiment with car advertising, experts suggest that you start small, with magnets, decals and/or car toppers, and move up to the more costly car wraps or special hybrid/electric cars as your sales increase. Let’s take a look at some of the options.

 

Magnets and Decals

Magnetic signs and vinyl decals are the most cost-effective car advertising options, with prices starting at under $50 per set. When purchasing car magnets, research your options and ask for referrals to avoid low-quality versions that will end up on the side of the road. “I’ve used magnets, car toppers and decals for vehicle advertising over the years,” Ames says. “I’m currently using reflective decals, because most of the time my vehicle is on the road when it’s dark.”

When Ames isn’t making deliveries, he parks his vehicle in a highly visible location of the parking lot to make sure the signage can be seen from all angles. “There is no angle in the lot from which you will not see the car,” he says. “With the reflective decals, it’s in your face.”

 

Orders automatically increase when delivery cars with various forms of vehicle advertising enter neighborhoods, so make yours easy to read.

Car Toppers

If you’re considering taking the car topper route, invest in a topper that lights up, since most pizza deliveries occur at night. Additionally, keep your logo and message simple and readable, including your phone number and website. Those who see your car driving by may have mere seconds to read your name and contact information, so make it easy for them to reach you.

“When deciding on what type of vehicle advertising you want, look at what’s unique,” Ames advises. “Try not to be a ‘me too’ person. Find a way to attract attention to your vehicle that nobody else is using, and do it. But don’t be too complicated with details. There’s only so much a person will remember about the vehicle, so make a good, simple impression.”

Seek out fellow operators to inquire about reliable car toppers that don’t slip, slide or fly off of vehicles. There are a variety of car toppers that attach to the top of a car via strong magnets or even mount to a passenger window—both plug into the car’s cigarette lighter for illumination, while some are available with rechargeable LED lights. “I started in the pizza business more than 30 years ago, and the first thing I did was purchase car toppers,” Joy says. “Car toppers advertise your product and your brand, and they tell customers that your pizzeria is in the neighborhood. We require every delivery driver to use a working car top.”

“Try not to be a ‘me too’ person. Find a way to attract attention to your vehicle that nobody else is using, and do it.”
—Richard Ames, Daddio’s Pizzeria

 

Wrapped and Company-Owned

When it comes to company-owned and wrapped delivery cars, there are a number of pros and cons to consider. On the pro side, a company-owned delivery car allows you to hire drivers who don’t own reliable vehicles of their own. They also provide consistency in your branding and attract greater attention than the typical car topper or magnetic sign. The cons to owning and insuring your own vehicles, of course, include the maintenance and insurance costs, but most operators find that the costs equal out in the end. 

In April 2015, Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria began using smart cars wrapped with pizzeria information and topped with giant 54”-by-54” pizza boxes. “For our concept, it was almost like we had to have this,” Agakhanyan says. “The big box on the small car looks neat and helps to connect all of our marketing efforts.” At the time of publication, Big Mama’s & Papa’s had a total of nine cars on the street in three of its 20 locations, with future plans to outfit every store. “People are always taking photos of our vehicles,” Agakhanyan says. “Eventually we want to start running promotions for those who upload photos and use our hashtag.”

“Car toppers advertise your product and your brand, and they tell customers that your pizzeria is in the neighborhood. We require every delivery driver to use 
a working car top.” 
—Lawrence Joy, Domino’s Team New Mexico

While Big Mama’s & Papa’s franchisees plan to provide wrapped cars for all of their delivery drivers, some companies reserve the wrapped cars for company executives. “Our executive team drives a fleet of nine wrapped company cars, mostly Toyota Priuses,” Joy says. “Everywhere I go, everyone knows that Domino’s is there, because my company car is wrapped with logos, phone numbers and even employment information, from bumper to bumper and side to side.”

The cars pay for themselves through the marketing boost, but Agakhanyan doesn’t deny that the cost can be prohibitive for those operators just starting out. “Each of our wrapped vehicles costs the franchisee $25,000, plus insurance,” he says. “Do the math and make sure you can justify the costs associated with a wrapped company car before you jump in.”

In an industry with more than 70,000 competitors, you have to find a point of differentiation. Could car advertising be the marketing tactic that gets you there? “You have to always be thinking outside the box and asking yourself, ‘How am I different?’” Agakhanyan says. “If you don’t know the answer, there’s something wrong.” 

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

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