Thinking Outside The Pizza Box: Great for Social Media But Not For Sales

Unconventional pizzas are hugely popular on social media.  Just try scrolling through a post or reel of a slice of a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos without stopping.  It’s nearly impossible.  Some may deride the product as “carnival food” but the pizza is a visual bonanza like Christmas at Bloomingdale’s and was made for Instagram and TikTok, the picture/video sharing apps.  

Facebook as the boring uncle to both lends itself to family vacation and pet photos.  

Instagram and TikTok prize the unusual like applying a famous snack derived from fried cornmeal as a pizza topping.  If virality had a formula it would be that.   However, unconventional pizzas like the aforementioned may generate millions of views and likes but they do not translate into sales.  

A few years ago, we added the Cheetos pizza as a limited time offer.   Our views and likes went through the roof on social media.  We thought we were being avant garde like Ferran Adria, the famous chef who introduced the world to cold soup with gazpacho.  For what we were doing was not some ad hoc effort.  We were not just opening a bag of Cheetos with our smartphones in hand and sprinkling the snack over pizzas that we ordered out.   We were producing the pizzas commercially so they not only had to be visually appealing but they needed to taste good.  This meant portioning the snack like any of our other pizza toppings so that it would not be overpowering.  We also needed to test how it interacted with our cheese, crust and sauce.   There were a slew of commercial considerations.  In the end, the careful planning paid off and we hit the mark.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  Yet, the sales were abject.  

To paraphrase, Will Ferrell’s character Chazz Michael Michaels from the movie Blades of Glory unconventional pizzas are really good at “getting the people going.”  Doing something out of the ordinary within your business demands seriousness and this is respected.  Customers really appreciated that we took the whacky Cheetos pizza seriously enough to add it as a limited time offer.  The exercise improved our rapport with existing customers and helped establish a rapport with people who knew nothing about us.    

Sometimes what you do may not have a direct effect on the bottom line but rather a positive effect on your overall business.