You may not be a stranger to March Madness, but I was. Well, until my colleagues Matthew Flug and Caitlin Wall shared something unique about this year’s NCAA Men’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament. Pizza brand Little Caesars announced that if a 16 seed beat a 1 seed — which had never happened in the history of the tournament — participating stores would provide a free pizza and beverage from 11:30 to 1:00 on April 2,  from 11:30 to 1:00 on April 2, the day of the championship game. On March 16, the seemingly impossible occurred, and Little Caesar’s delivered on its promise on April 2.

I’m sure the game was amazing, but I was more curious about the Little Caesars promotion, especially given that Pizza Hut was the official sponsor of March Madness. I pulled in my colleague Chris Collins and asked him what social listening could tell us about this promotion from the consumer perspective. Chris used Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight Buzz Monitor tool to capture anonymized online content that US consumers posted publicly on the Web during the tournament (March 13 to April 3, 2018). Using natural language processing technology, he analyzed consumer-generated conversations related to Pizza Hut and Little Caesars on blogs, forums, microblogs, comments, and social networks. The chart below shows us the share of voice, which calculates the volume of posts that mentioned either brand during the 2018 tournament (e.g., Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s, @pizzahut,@littlecaesars, #marchmadness), excluding irrelevant search criteria.

There are two key takeaways from this promotion, both highlighting missed opportunities:

  • According to this data, Little Caesars pulled attention away from Pizza Hut on two days: March 17, the day after the 16th-seeded team won, and April 2, the day of the pizza giveaway. However, Pizza Hut maintained a steady share of social mentions over the course of the competition; Little Caesar’s didn’t. Unfortunately, we don’t know the goals Little Caesars had for this competition, but I hope it was measuring the impact of the promotion with tangible metrics. If I were privy to its strategy, I’d like to know if its sales increased after April 2 or if it acquired new customers because of the giveaway. This information would confirm that participating franchisees received value to offset the cost of participation.
  • Although Pizza Hut maintained a steady share of mentions throughout the course of the competition, it didn’t change its social behavior to acknowledge Little Caesars’ activity — and customers wanted it to. Chris found a few tweets supporting this:

Hey @pizzahut, since @littlecaesars is giving free pizza after the @UMBC_MBB game, will you do the same after the @KStateMBB game? #justsaying #ilikepizza #emaw #gocats

Thanks @pizzahut for your rewards program after @littlecaesars shut down the free pizzas at 12:30!! You da real MVP!!

@littlecaesars free pizza is a #scam. One per family? So much for “every person in America” promotion. #KeepYourPizza Who wants my business? @pizzahut @PapaJohns @pizza

Pizza Hut made an investment with its sponsorship but missed an opportunity to support that investment with social commentary. Social media gives brands an opportunity to participate in real-time conversation, especially when customers invite it. Marketers, in addition to sharing information on social media, don’t miss the opportunity to demonstrate your customer obsession.

One last note. Our Consumer Forum wraps up today, but take a look at the #forrmktg hashtag on Twitter to learn a few ways to drive customer obsession and ultimately a better customer experience.

A big thank you to Matt Flug, Caitlin Wall, and Jim Nail for an enthusiastic March Madness discussion.  And thanks again to Chris Collins for the social listening data assist. 🙂