With its fire-burning ovens pumping out pizzas in 180 seconds, Blaze Pizza has branded itself as the on-the-go pizza option for millennials. In-app mobile ordering, location technology, and a focus on partnering with local franchise owners who know their neighborhoods have allowed Blaze to maintain a robust loyalty program and keep its customers coming back.
The company’s social media manager, Rahiel Dawit, spoke with Street Fight about how the company is catering its digital marketing to millennials and how it deploys location-based marketing tools to stay ahead of the competition.
How do you incorporate location into Blaze’s marketing strategy?
From the beginning, we decided to only work with franchise partners. They have close ties to their communities because they know their locations better than we do. They are on the ground, and they can tell us what events are happening nearby.
As far as tech or location management tools—we just started using a third-party tool. That does help us clean up our data online and helps us see, by location, how people are searching for us. Are they looking by direct search? Or are they just looking up restaurants nearby?
What tools have been most effective for you?
Using the third-party tool, we were able to look at a specific location and determine: Where exactly is that pindrop supposed to be so that people can locate us? We’re a franchise organization, and it can be hard to organize all of that.
We also wanted a tool that our franchisees can use when it comes to paid media (possibly in the future)—having that all in one place is great. Because we’re still a growing brand, with 258 locations, we wanted to make sure that the brand voice was consistent. We’ve tried as much as we can to control that. With the tool that we’re using, we can create the ad units, and then franchisees can choose what they want to run.
You have an app for mobile ordering—how can data from the app help target advertising?
We have our database of app versus non-app users. We’ve been able to target app users with specific rewards and also get other people excited who may not be on the app. The app and emails—we want to try to get them on both where we have more opportunities to talk to them and send them rewards.
We’re going to be able to target more specific regions or users with different rewards, based on what they’ve already purchased or [when we’re] trying to increase trial of any new menu items. Or we can use it to target based on the weather outside. We had a really bad snowstorm in Chicago recently. We were able to send messaging directly to those subscribers with delivery options.
How does the app work?
Every time a guest comes in and they scan their app, they get a flame, and 10 flames get you a free pizza. We are revamping our app soon. And you’ll see new things happening with that, and I’m excited about where we’re going. The reward structure is going to change, as well as the complete look of it.
Why the change?
It’s all rooted in what our guests say. We get feedback from reviews and social comments. And we want to improve and grow, of course.
How are you trying to get people onto your mobile app?
We have the loyalty program; with that, more users will come in. We also do rewards throughout the year—say, if we’re releasing new aqua frescas, which we change seasonally. We get people to use the app because they have the reward, and then they make it a habit when they come in.
What does the mobile/phone ordering say about who the typical Blaze customer is and how they access your product?
Guests could place online orders, but they wanted their food to be ready right away. Originally, we weren’t making food until you got there, because we wanted to make sure the quality was amazing. But more people wanted the food just to be done. Now they’re able to select the time that they want their food. That told us convenience is very important to them.
For phone ordering, people wanted—especially when they’re driving or had a large order—they just wanted to be able to place their order over the phone very easily.
The Blaze brand is targeted toward millennials. How is your digital advertising strategy targeted toward them?
We do have a tight grip on our tone of voice and how we speak. Our main channel would be Instagram, because of the visual aspect and the storytelling we can do. We have Twitter, and I’d say 99% of our conversations are just with our guests, and 1% is content. We have a loyal fan base, and I wouldn’t discount Twitter at all.
We also do things outside our regular advertising. Migos’ Quevo celebrated his birthday in Atlanta with “Huncho Day,” and we provided pizzas for them. We want to show that we’re part of culture, and that we get it. Our investor is Lebron James. Lebron is also great at keeping us in that conversation.
We try to do things also outside of digital, things that are experiential. We found that a lot of people didn’t know that we had vegan options, so we decided to do an influencer event partnered with our vegan cheese provider Daiya at one of our restaurants where we invited around 10 influencers. They learned about the new trend, the new pizza, and then shared the trend on social.
How does your digital marketing strategy help you keep with industry standards, or move beyond them?
I do think having that strong base of franchisees really helps us, and that sets the tone for everything else that we do.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Kate Talerico is a staff writer at Street Fight.