Industry News | March 22, 2010

To Create a Buzz, Stevi B's Unleashes the Bees

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As it ramps up its franchising and growth efforts, Stevi B’s Pizza Buffet is launching a marketing campaign centered on a new brand mascot: bees.

“Bees have kind of been a character that Americans have come to love through the movies and various other things,” says Matthew Loney, president of Stevi B’s, noting that the name of the brand also made the mascot pick simple.

“The plan is certainly to plan around bees as we move forward as one of our main characters and symbols.”

Two commercials featuring a family of bees have already been launched in Stevi B’s markets, while another two are scheduled to launch in the fall.

Loney says the new mascot is good for local-store marketing, as the company plans to develop headbands with antennas for kids, bee memorabilia as prizes in the stores’ game rooms, and potentially even hold spelling bees in individual stores.

Perhaps the biggest driver behind the new campaign, however, is to get the Stevi B’s brand name into more households.

“As most small systems find, you’ve got to assist your franchisees in getting the name out there,” Loney says. “The local-store marketing is great as far as getting the roots out in the communities we’re in, but our main recognition is still really small.

“Now’s the time, mainly because we need to be out there, we need to be reaching customers who have never been inside our four walls, challenging what they think of when they think of pizza buffet.”

Loney says television is the best way to reach new customers because it gives the company a chance to show the inside of the store. Many people, he says, think of pizza buffets as being low quality, and television spots give Stevi B’s the opportunity to dispel the belief.

The company hopes the bee mascot will stick around for several years, Loney says. He believes a mascot is a great way for a growing quick serve to establish a common personality.

“As you begin to franchise and you have multi-unit operators in step, there’s really not a person or a figure that you can put on at the front of that brand,” he says. “What you do, by having these mascots, is you give something to your customer base that they can relate to.”

In the short term, at least, Loney hopes the Stevi B’s bees create a conversation point among customer coming in the pizza shop’s doors.

“If that happens, then I’ll know that we’re onto something, and that this something that we can really take for long term and really grow the brand with,” he says.

By Sam Oches