Is Toppers copying Papa John's?

Toppers Pizza creates new pizza through ‘crowdsourcing’

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The pizza industry has been banking on some colorful tags lately, including Domino’s successful “Oh Yes We Did” mantra. Now expanding Midwestern chain Toppers Pizza is pushing the more cheeky “Spank your ‘buds,” meant to convey the brand’s forte of “really good tasting food,” according to marketing director Scott Iversen.

But just as Domino’s used its now famous tagline to spearhead a recipe overhaul that admitted previously subpar food, Toppers is launching the promo that goes with the saucy saying: The “Spank Your Pizza” program will allow fans and customers alike to create their own original pizza recipe using the ingredients found at each Toppers. Top entrees will battle each other in a tournament-style bracket, where each recipe advances based on the voting of Toppers’ own Facebook fans. The ultimate winner will have their menu item featured as a part of the Toppers’ menu, also receiving free Toppers for a year as well as a $500 gift card. Second prize will be rewarded free Toppers for a year and a $100 gift card, while every finalist gets a free Triple Order.

The contest will end at the end of the year. Iversen said the winning re

cipe will be introduced in the first part of 2011, along with a new product launch.

Iversen said the promotion aims to separate the brand’s communication techniques from those of larger pizza chains. “In social media, you have to have a conversation with your customers, not talk to them,” he said. He points to the small chain’s 15,000 fans as proof that the philosophy works.

Some would argue, however, that this promotion looks a lot like one from the top pizza chains. Papa John’s ongoing Specialty Pizza Challenge has also “crowdsourced,” or allowed a group of online fans to create, three new pizzas through their fans on Facebook.

But Iversen said the timing of the two promos was totally coincidental. Indeed, the smaller brand seems to be especially sensitive and responsive to its customers in the medium. In fact, Iversen recalls, online brand fanatics once erected a page to the gyro pizza Toppers had taken off the menu, and they amassed a good number of followers for it. The brand re-introduced the menu item with a nod toward the Facebook page founders’ efforts.

It paid off for the brand too.

“It’s sales have more than doubled from the first time we sold it. Our fans helped sell it to other Toppers fans,” he said. “So by engaging people into a conversation, we’re able to produce the product and create trials.”

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