Last summer Papa John’s conducted Papa’s Specialty Pizza Challenge, a crowdsourcing campaign. Consumers were asked to create and submit recipes for interesting new pizzas.
A panel of qualified judges selected ten semi-finalists based on overall appeal, taste, creativity of the name, and interest of the story. The judges then selected three finalists from the semi-finalists. The top three pizzas were put on the regular menu and finalists had one month to hustle up sales of their pizza creations, each was given $1000 to promote their pizza. The top selling pizza won a cut of the sales up to a maximum of $10,000 plus $480 of Papa John’s pizza each year for 50 years.
Interestingly, the pizza that got the most Facebook “likes” did not win. “Papa John’s Cheesy Chicken Cordon Bleu for Gulf Coast Animals” by Barbara Hyman, started out ahead of the other two pizza contestants and never relinquished that position during the entire month, selling about 108,000 pizzas, or 45% of the contestant pizzas sold.
Papa John’s VP of digital marketing said Hyman’s pizza had two powerful hooks: the Cordon Bleu name was familiar and easy to remember, and her cause was framed as a way to help animals harmed by the BP oil spill, a timely and emotional pull.
Hyman made alliances with other businesses who helped her promote the pizza and pledged to match her charity donation if she won. She said, “People didn’t seem to care about the money I could win, but their interest peaked when I talked about helping wild life covered with oil.”
Six lessons from Papa John’s about crowdsourcing product creation:
- Challenge customers to win a product creation contest by providing motivating incentives
- Utilize objective criteria and judges to select the finalists
- Give finalists marketing tools and resources to promote their product creation
- Gauge success by product sales and not by any other kind of criteria, like voting
- Promotions that involve donations to charity or a good cause can easily win out over promotions that focus on the contest itself
- Contests promoted with social media creates audience engagement for the business