Competition | December 2012 | By Christa Gala

The Pizza Thief

Growing pizza chain uses new campaign to steal market share from major players.

Toppers’ new advertising campaign hopes to capture customers and sales from big-
Toppers’ new advertising campaign hopes to capture customers and sales from big-name pizza chains. Toppers
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Toppers Pizza isn’t shy about one of its biggest ambitions: taking market share from the national chains. That’s why the brand launched a television campaign designed to appeal to the 18–34-year-old Millennial demographic and steal the spotlight from its biggest competitors.

The “Taste Test” commercials feature customers putting a Toppers pizza through several situations—a slip-and-slide and an angry girlfriend, for example—and determining, “Yep, still delicious.”

“When we enter a new market, our goal is to steal market share from those [big] guys,” says Scott Iversen, director of marketing for Wisconsin-based Toppers Pizza, a chain that was on track to open its 50th store this year. “We compete head to head against the big four pizza chains: Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Little Caesars.”

But competing with the big boys is a tall order. “Pizza is a very competitive space today in foodservice,” says Erik Thoresen, a director at Technomic. “For people like Toppers, they will need to go beyond price in their message to sell why they are different from the big guys.”

Toppers knows what it’s up against and is talking up its product differentiators through Internet, television, and mobile messaging. “We make all of our products from scratch every day in our store,” he says. “We make our own dough, we dice our own cheese, and cut vegetables every day fresh.”

Iversen says the marketing campaign aims for a hip, edgy vibe that appeals to all age groups, not just the college students it traditionally does so well with.

“We have only about 50 percent of our stores in campus markets,” Iversen says. “We grew up there, but as we’ve expanded, what we’ve found is everybody is pretty much young at heart. We all wish we could go back to being 20 for at least a moment or two. So even though we connect with this fun and irreverent personality, it appeals to a wide range of people.”