Little Caesars re-released a discontinued pizza variety and enlisted fans to promote it on social media.
Little Caesars was bringing back a fan-favorite menu item but with a new approach. The brand wanted to show people that Little Caesars was a company that listened: it was bringing back Pretzel Crust because fans were asking it to — not just as a way to drive sales, though the organization hoped to accomplish that end as well.
Little Caesars Pretzel Crust had developed a cult following. Ever since it left the menu almost two years ago, Pretzel Crust fans had gone to great lengths to bring it back. Some went as far as freezing pizzas to enjoy months later. Others started Facebook groups and online petitions. And one fan even picketed outside the company headquarters.
So, when announcing its return, Little Caesars decided to target these Pretzel Crust fans and use them to the brand's advantage, turning them into unpaid social media influencers who would spread the word about the product.
The fans of pretzel crust weren't hard to find. They were engaged in making Change.org petitions to bring back Pretzel Crust and trying to be the first comment on any post about the product. But what exactly did they want? Yes, of course, they wanted Pretzel Crust back. But more than that, they wanted recognition of their dedication to the cause. They wanted to be able to point to Pretzel Crust's return and say, "I did that."
With that in mind, the Little Caesars strategy was to leverage these fans and give them what they ultimately wanted: a platform to bring back Pretzel Crust. In turn, they would help the brand show the rest of the world how exceptional Pretzel Crust was.
With its creamy cheddar cheese sauce and salted soft pretzel crust, Little Caesars Pretzel Crust Pizza was certainly not for everyone — but those who liked it loved it. Of all the Little Caesars products, this one had the biggest cult following.
Little Caesars had actually brought Pretzel Crust back before. People would express gratitude, sales would be okay, but then it was forgotten about. Little Caesars sought to make this re-release of Pretzel Crust different.
Overall Campaign Execution:
Instead of hiring dozens of influencers with thousands of followers to promote its pizza, Little Caesars flipped the script, getting thousands of Pretzel Crust die-hards with dozens of followers to do it for the brand. And by giving fans a chance to #UnlockPretzelCrust, along with unique pretzel-themed prizes — all before the pizza was even back — Little Caesars knew they would talk and tweet about it.
Comments on social posts demanding the return of Pretzel Crust were the No. 1 most mentioned product on social media, accounting for 59 percent of all past product mentions in 2020.
Tapping into this vocal fandom, Little Caesars launched a gamified, social media-based scavenger hunt called "#UnlockPretzelCrust." Cries for the product's return were loudest on Twitter, so the brand used that channel as its primary hub for cryptic clues. Then Little Caesars started hiding codes across the internet, in its TV commercials, and even in the middle of the Nevada desert.
Little Caesars suspected that super fans had notifications turned on for its account, so the company hid codes in organic posts, knowing fans would be looking for clues regardless of the content. There was also a Reddit community watching the activity of Little Caesars.
Once fans knew the codes could be anywhere, suddenly they were talking about them on various platforms — on their feeds and even deep within the threads on Reddit. So, Little Caesars decided to go there, too, and hid codes inside a billion-pixel Pretzel Crust photo-hunt on that social platform.
In the world of national pizza chains, Little Caesars is often left out of the conversation involving Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's. #UnlockPretzelCrust was part of an overarching campaign created to show consumers that Little Caesars is different from its other "Big Pizza" competitors.
The brand wanted to change the narrative around Little Caesars and start getting credit for all the ways it did things differently and better versus the category — things like bringing back a fan favorite pizza when other companies could appear disinterested in listening to their customers.
Little Caesars created #UnlockPretzelCrust to tap into fans' existing behaviors, driving buzz around the product, rewarding its advocates, and expanding fandom. By giving them a mission, Little Caesars turned its Pretzel Crust fans into unofficial Pretzel Crust ambassadors, even offering one of them an entirely real job as the organization's "Chief Pretzel Officer."
By starting and building on social fandom, Little Caesars not only increased positive conversation around the brand on social media but also increased sales. After 72 million social impressions and a 700 percent increase in conversation, Little Caesars pizza sales soared.