In the decade leading up to 2016, a limited-service pizza brand’s category share had declined nearly 11%. Rather than mirroring its competitors by connecting with digitally savvy cohorts and implementing deals for short-term gains, it sought to differentiate its strategies. In a category prone to brand switching, it recognized that a strong heritage and brand equity are not enough, particularly with increased competition from delivery and meal-kit players such as Grubhub and Blue Apron.

Our client set out to pursue ways to influence its growing dilemma through three key pillars: emotion, experience, and habit. Beyond understanding how to impact this cycle by establishing an enduring connection that would carry over to ordering experiences, we needed to determine how a messaging strategy would influence it. Identifying white-space opportunities to innovate and activate against was also critical to impact ticket size and drive incremental sales.

The program kick-off ensured in-depth understanding of current knowledge while also exploring situational context, barriers to action, ongoing hypotheses, and metrics of success.

Initial conversations with customers via our proprietary platform uncovered their perceptions and stated aspects of the decision-making process. It further set the tone for consideration, emotional triggers, and bio-sensory factors. Linking these broader learnings to in-home observation and discussions revealed the entire customer journey, from order and delivery to consumption. Post-consumption experiences also helped to identify how a new positioning could impact the entire journey, while laying the foundation for enhancements along the way.

The ensuing insights led stakeholders across culinary, brand, marketing, and digital teams to the realization that prior recommendations would not lead to an effective re-positioning, and instead required a fundamental shift in their messaging strategies.

However, given the state of the category and its dynamics and changing landscape, it would be difficult to differentiate on go-to-market strategies alone. Moving forward with our partnership, they wanted to explore culinary offerings and packaging innovation in efforts to extend their core offering beyond pizza.

Based on monitoring trends and the current state of quick-serve restaurants and in-dining experiences, there became a need to focus their innovation on specific product pillars. A prerequisite to exploring and experimenting with white-space opportunities was to instate a purposeful internal process. A design-thinking framework grounded in collaboration, iteration, and education was essential. Likewise, infusing consumer empathy throughout to ensure traction amongst consumers was equally as important.

Across these two initiatives, shared human experiences and a human-centered approach to innovation, ideation, prototyping, and experiential testing by consumers is enabling them to hone their business strategies. Moreover, an agile yet rigorous innovation process that can be replicated across supply chain, operations, culinary, and customer experience teams is helping to ensure that its parent company’s investment in revitalizing the brand will reaccelerate gains.