In 1997, Little Caesars introduced "Big ! Big ! Pizzas." How big
were the pizzas? As the advertising said, "Bigger than the sun!"
Little Caesars' large pizza was 65% bigger than Pizza Hut's and
Domino's. Little Caesars' medium pizza was 77% bigger. Little
Caesars' small pizza was the same size as the other guys' large
Somewhere along the way, the brilliant "Pizza. Pizza" concept
disappeared in a cloud of creative confusion.
In the midst of all these changes, you seldom heard a word of
caution from industry pundits. Quite the opposite. "Industry
analysts say that by adding home delivery," according to USA Today,
"Little Caesars can boost its business without purchasing a lot of
"You're at a competitive disadvantage," said one market research
expert at the time, "if you're in the pizza business and not
That's common sense, of course, which is not the same as
Common sense says a second slogan is additive. "Little Caesars
is known for takeout, so we'll launch a delivery program. That way
we'll be known for two ideas instead of one."
Marketing sense is subtractive. A second slogan seldom gets
accepted because it conflicts with an established slogan in
consumers' minds. Even worse, a second slogan often undermines the
existing one. More is less.
Now buried in fourth place
So where is Little Caesars today? The once No. 2 chain is now
buried in fourth place. Here are 2009 U.S. sales.
- Pizza Hut: $5.0 billion
- Domino's: $3.1 billion
- Papa John's: $2.1 billion
- Little Caesars: $1.2 billion
In 15 years of tinkering, U.S. sales of Little Caesars declined
What is Little Caesars' current slogan? Who knows? Many
consumers still have that "Pizza. Pizza" refrain bouncing around in
What is Pizza Hut's current advertising slogan? Who knows? The
chain has never hammered an idea into consumers' minds, although it
continues to benefit from its overall leadership position in the
What is Domino's current advertising slogan? Domino's once had
one of the most powerful slogans in the pizza business. "Home
delivery in 30 minutes or it's free." But safety issues forced the
chain to withdraw the offer. So Domino's wisely introduced an idea
that plays off its original guarantee. "You got 30 minutes."
Consider the quandary Domino's faced. For insurance reasons, it
couldn't continue to use the 30-minute idea. So what should it do
Common sense says it's better to develop a brand-new slogan than
it is to use a watered-down version of an existing slogan.
But marketing sense is just the opposite. You'll never erase the
30-minute idea in consumers' minds so it's better to develop
something that relates to that concept.
The urge to tinker never dies. Even with Domino's long-term
success, the chain recently ran a "mea culpa" campaign talking
about the poor quality of its pizza and promising to do better.
Sales shot up immediately, but I have my doubts about the long-term
wisdom of moving away from the 30-minute idea.