I had the pleasure of interviewing Naked Pizza co-founder Robbie Vitrano last year. The Naked story really is a fascinating venture and the brand they’ve created is most definitely ’one to watch’. In short, Naked is healthy pizza. They spent years investing and experimenting to find a 10 grain pizza base that actually tasted good (as well as healthy and tasty toppings); and wrapped the whole thing in a brand that was fun and inviting and on an exciting mission to make us healthier. I could go on and on, but here’s key lessons I think we can all learn from.
1. Audacious Ambition – Obesity is a frighteningly epic problem. So frighteningly epic that most companies either leave it alone, or try to solve it in tiny incremental surges – like take out the sugar and add sweetener. Not exactly a solution, I’m sure you’d agree. But Naked own it. They sail on in and have the audacity to say that they are on mission to “launch the world’s largest grassroots health movement.” This affects much more than the pizza-eater; it has implications for the farmers and suppliers (local of course), their transportation options, the way they build their stores and who they hire. Such a bold ambition is inspirational, and as a consumer, invites me to be part of something bigger than just a pepperoni slice.
2. Pick Your Battles – Americans love pizza. That’s not going to change in a hurry; so rather than fixing the problem by offering a soy/grain/vegetable surprise that no-one wants to eat – Naked chose to work within the parameters of a pizza loving nation and make a healthier pizza. Couple this with the fact that the pizza industry – $50billion strong and one of the most profitable franchise models out there – is also not going anywhere. It is a distribution model with extraordinary reach; and if you hijack it with a healthy pizza you have a real opportunity to do good (good on a scale that a soy/grain/vegetable surprise could never obtain). And it turns out that there are a whole host of people who want to make money AND serve up something they could be proud to stand behind.
3. Focus – Naked have been incredibly single-minded in their communication – they tell us they are healthy pizza. This may seem like a natural choice for the brand, but it’s remarkable when you learn about all the different parts of the story they could have told. For example, they could have told us all about how they were inspired by Michael Pollen and wanted to provide food that really is food, they could have told us how important local ingredients are and why they only select them, they could have told us that the pizza industry is worth $50 billion and they’re out to healthy-up this successful franchise model, they could have told us how bad GMO is and why they always avoid it or about the benefits of pro-biotics and why they use them – but instead they told us they were healthy pizza. Of course, all these parts of the story are there for you to discover if you buy into the brand and want to peel back the Naked onion. But they have been admirably single-minded and focused in their vision.
4. Have fun- it’s still a pizza and people don’t want to feel they’re being reprimanded for something that’s meant to bring happiness. For this reason, the Naked brand has been deliberately designed to feel warm, inclusive and never, ever ‘holier than thou’. Where’s the fun in that?
5. Start a Conversation – Naked are famous for their stellar use of social media. First up, it makes sense for a start-up with little money to overindex on social media – but it’s also a signal to your target of the sort of conversations you want – two-way, open, immediate and authentic. Some of their first billboards had nothing more than the Twitter bird and their twitter account name. Their twitter account projects their social mission; shares interesting news and studies, poses big questions (e.g. will printing calorie counts on menus make us healthier or not), recruits for new positions and also offers live deals. This has created a real tribe of Naked fans; a lot of who started as pizza-eaters and now work for the company.
6. Make Me Notice – We probably all know that pizza isn’t the best for us. What if I told you that eating a normal pizza is like eating toppings off a donut? That’s what Naked told me. And boy did I listen. Challengers look to create symbols of re-evaluation – it could be an event or stunt; some imagery or a sentence – but whatever its medium, they radically jolt you out of your complacency.
Want to hear more? Listen to clips from Bella’s interview with Robbie over on the Challenger Project…