Red Rocks and Pizza on the Moon

Red Rocks and Pizza on the Moon

I was reading an article recently that caught my interest in two of my passions: history and marketing. In 1999, Pizza Hut was looking for an effective, yet out-of-the-box way to promote their brand. Not only did they go outside of the box, but they also went outside of this world.

Pizza Hut was a normal player in big time advertising, regularly paying millions for spots during halftime of the Super Bowl and other expected ad placements. But in 1999, they took a gamble that really paid off. The executives at Pizza Hut teamed up with the Russian space program and paid a little over a million dollars to have a 27 ft by 27 ft foot Pizza Hut logo painted on the side of a Russian rocket that was headed for the international space station. The U.S. does not allow advertising of any kind on NASA equipment since it’s paid for by taxpayer dollars. But because of Pizza Hut’s international reach and the global interest in all things space-related, this turned out to be a deal made in heaven for both parties.

The cash-strapped Russian space program needed the money and gladly accepted the deal. Then, Pizza Hut combined the small, plain logo on the Russian rocket with a full-blown space themed marketing campaign here on Earth, including sending pizza for the astronauts to eat in space. How successful was this creative idea? For comparison, it cost about $1.6 million for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial in 1999, and the viewership was 83 million people (mostly in the U.S.). The space campaign cost just under $2 million total, but it’s estimated that over 500 MILLION people around the world either saw the logo during the launch, on one of the thousands of news stories about the creative marketing venture, or watched video of the astronauts eating Pizza Hut pizza in space. Pizza Hut became known as “Space Pizza” for much of the early 2000s, and locations in all 155 countries where they operate saw an increase in sales.

I realize not many contractors have millions of dollars to play with for marketing experiments, and you aren’t after international markets anyway. Millions of eyes on you outside of a 100-mile radius wouldn’t add a lot to most local contractors’ bottom lines, so Super Bowl ads and rockets aren’t really in our neighborhood marketing scheme. But this did get me thinking about some outside-of-the-box ideas at a much more community level.

Whether they are intentionally or accidentally genius, we likely all have companies in our local areas who’ve become known for something iconic. A local gas station in my county was built in the 1970s, and during construction they found an issue on the empty lot. There was a huge, 4-ton boulder right in their way, and it was going to take extra money and time to remove it. But in a clever move, they just unearthed as much of it as they could, rolled it right up front by the road, and painted the entire thing fire engine red. For the last 50 years, that gas station has been known by everyone around as “The Red Rock,” and they’ve probably sold as many dollars’ worth of T-shirts and stickers as a roadside tourist trap on the summer beach route as they have anything else in the store.

In Dothan, Alabama, a sheet metal company commissioned a 26 foot by 13 foot sculpture of a pig made from scrap metal, then sat it beside one of the busiest roads in the area. Each year they have the pig painted in the school colors of that year’s Iron Bowl winner (University of Alabama vs. Auburn University’s annual college football rivalry game). The pig has generated massive buzz and is now considered a Dothan landmark. “Schnitzer the Pig” even has his own Facebook page. The owner said the original idea came from one of his employees and that the investment of $4,000 has returned millions in advertising and buzz for his company.

You don’t necessarily need a 13-foot pig, giant boulders, or a Russian rocket to stand out, but I want to challenge you to think outside the box with your marketing ideas as well. The sole intent of marketing is, after all, to get customers to remember your name. Traditional marketing with billboards, radio, direct-mail, and online options are still mainstays to remain top-of-mind with your prospects. But if that’s all anyone is doing, it tends to all just blend together with no one standing out. Personality, surprise, and careful use of witty humor improve your chances of prospects remembering you.

Hudson,Ink is here to help you stand out from your competition with both traditional print or digital marketing and some out-of-the-box ideas as well. Reach out to us here to book a time to talk, and we’ll brainstorm your next big idea together!

justin jacobs
Justin Jacobs
Marketing Coach