Fixing a Marketing Mistake: Papa John 23 cent Pizza Follows Nasty T-shirt Name-calling

LeBron James is a hero here in NEOhio. When a Washington Papa John’s franchise printed up T-shirts with the Papa John logo on them calling the Cleveland Cavaliers player a “crybaby”, the 86 Papa John Pizza stores in the Ohio area ran a promotion to sell pizzas for 23 cents each. 

Some estimates I found said the chain sold an estimated 75,000 pizzas.  Other sources said 300 pizzas were sold per location and then the store was closed.  Whatever the real number is, I do know this, the lines went on for blocks. 

Papa John’s promised to donate $10,000 and the 23 cents from each pizza sold to the Cavaliers Youth Fund, a foundation that encourages education, promotes health and fitness and supports job-training programs.

Marketing result:

  • A google search the next day on “Papa Johns” 23 brings back 342,000 results. 
  • A google search 10 days later on “Papa Johns” 23  brings back 512,000 results.
  • A google search the next day on “Papa Johns” 23 video brings back 86,200 results.
  • 10 days later: 94,400 results
  • Money donated to good cause
  • Lots of media coverage
  • Fans stood in lines talking about Papa Johns

Did Papa Johns fix a marketing mistake?  Yes I believe so.

Lesson learned: Take a mistake, admit it (big time!) and turn it into a marketing opportunity.  Papa Johns got TV coverage and newspaper coverage of their event.  Wonder how much a TV commercial of a similar length and column inches in the newspaper would have cost?  Fulfilling a promotion with product is usually less expensive than buying media.

Is there a way that you could apply this principle to your business and build some buzz among your customers, getting media attention at the same time?

video: Action 19 news via AP via YouTube

Author: Chris Brown

Business owner operating a marketing consulting firm. Online Publisher. Keynote Speaker.