The Big New Yorker

By Published on .

Randy Gier should golf more -- at least when he needs a really good idea. It was during an afternoon game that he thought of a solution to his big challenge: How to make a classic white-dough style pizza special.

To do that, Mr. Gier, chief marketing officer for Tricon Global Restaurants' Pizza Hut, experimented with size. Inspired by the massive pizzas found in the Northeastern U.S., Mr. Gier's team created a 16-inch version.

Then he worked out a price that would attract frequent pizza purchasers.

The most challenging task was to give the pie a name and personality. That's where the golf comes in.

"For a long time, we kept seeing market research that focused on what the pizza wasn't," says Mr. Gier, 38. "I had to figure out how to say what it was."

During a rare afternoon round of golf, Mr. Gier was teeing off on a ninth hole with Pizza Hut President Mike Rawlings, and he couldn't shake the naming problem.

Reeling off ideas from New York Classic Style Pizza (no personality) to American Classic (too Tommy Hilfiger) to New Yorker (a magazine), Mr. Gier had an epiphany with The Big New Yorker (bingo!).

Although he didn't break 100 on the game, his idea was a hole in one. Pizza Hut put $80 million into an ad campaign by BBDO Worldwide, New York, and a blockbuster custom CD promotion for the new pizza. The ads, featuring Fran Drescher, Spike Lee and Donald Trump asked, "Why do New Yorkers have such big mouths?"

Not only did the pizza become a huge seller, it also helped turn the company around. The company increased its share in the traditional pizza category by five points and helped drive 1999 same store sales growth by 4.4% to $5 billion.

Mr. Gier, whose typical day starts at 6 a.m., has a motto, "Go big or stay home," a line used by Donald Trump in the commercials. Maybe Mr. Gier should change that motto to "Go big or go golfing."

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