I tracked down a couple more clips on YouTube of people waiting in line for pizza in Cleveland. It appears the lines are enormous at all the stores offering the promotion. While it is quite likely that this promotion will endear Papa John’s to Cleveland residents (who doesn’t love cheap pizza?) the chaos of the situation also lends itself to a few potential problems:

  1. Long Wait – Some customers may become upset at how difficult or time consuming it is for them to get their $.23 pizzas.
  2. Running out of pizza – My previous post indicated that some stores will close when they run out of ingredients. This could anger people who were promised a $.23 pizza but didn’t get one.
  3. Incidents that occur in line – I would bet $20 that at least one, if not multiple stories will come out tomorrow about a fight breaking out in one of these lines, kids in line who were caught skipping school etc.

Click below to see two video clips of the lines, as well as read my analysis of how this promotion could either help or harm Papa John’s brand image.

Two video clips of people waiting in line around the Cleveland area appear below:

I think the most important question to ask about this story is: how will this apology and promotion reflect on the Papa John’s brand image and the perception of what type of person buys pizza from Papa John’s?

A lot of people are probably wondering, who has time to wait in line this long for pizza? The answer to that question seems (largely) to be: students skipping school, the homeless, the unemployed, retirees and nursing home patients. Of course those who work at night and people with the day off work also probably flocked to the stores.

If you are trying to appeal to middle class families as a better quality pizza than Pizza Hut or Domino’s do you want to be seen as the place that was flooded with people and couldn’t keep up with the demand? Or will people be understanding about the wait given the situation and the enormity of the savings?

My concerns could be baseless. It is quite possible that the promotion will end up being a huge success for Papa John’s. However, I view these lines and the chaos of them not as a net plus, but a potential net minus for the Papa John’s brand. The answer remains to be seen.

It should be noted, the stores are not losing money on this. Papa John’s corporate assured me that the costs for this promotion would be picked up by the corporate office and the Washington, DC franchises, not the Cleveland area franchises. But it begs the question, couldn’t an apology and charitable donation without the $.23 pizza’s have salvaged most of their business and reputation? Maybe, maybe not.

Papa John’s also may have seen this as a marketing opportunity to get lots of free publicity. Perhaps they just set the price point for their promotion too low. If the minimum purchase was higher than $.23, for example, buy 1 pizza for $5, get 2 free (3 for $5) would that have changed the type and volume of consumers drawn in by the deal?

It may take some time for us to recognize the full impact their apology and promotion have had on their brand name. It could make pizza eaters around the country view them more favorably, or it could harm their image. I don’t have the answer, but I look forward to the chance to investigate that question again in the near future.

2 Responses

  1. tim

    espn has an article up reporting that cops were stationed to make sure that fights didn’t break out, and that things have generally been orderly.

    it’s pretty sad that all these people are willing to spend hours in line to save like 8 bucks or something. it’s not like papa john’s pizza is normally expensive or anything.


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