There are many basic ways to measure the success of a brand: rising
sales; rising profitability; accelerating rate of expansion without
dilution; and the ability to sustain premium prices without discounting
(ie no ’two-for-one’ offers).
All of these things apply to Pizza Express, which last week announced
stunning half-year results. But the measure I like best is one you will
never see in an annual report. This is the so-called ’house price’
effect: apparently, whenever Pizza Express opens a new restaurant, house
prices in the area immediately rise by about 5 per cent.
Now I scarcely dare raise such a heretical subject in Campaign, but the
interesting thing about Pizza Express is that it doesn’t advertise.
That’s zip, not at all, not even to recruit staff, whose numbers have
increased eightfold in five years.
That is not to say that Pizza Express doesn’t have a marketing strategy.
It does, but it is based on two rather old-fashioned and sequential
concepts: consistency of product allied to quality service, leading to
word-of-mouth recommendation. This you can only achieve through rigorous
attention to operational detail. In addition, it has an in-house
magazine (available only in restaurants) and a loyalty club, with
membership of a few thousand.
The other notable point is that Pizza Express has resisted the
temptation to fiddle with its offering. The basic menu and concept has
remained unchanged and gimmick-free for 33 years. It has, in the words
of the business proverb, ’stuck to its knitting’. The point here is not
that everyone can be like Pizza Express - nor is it to criticise the
likes of McDonald’s or Pizza Hut for using advertising. But managements,
especially those in service industries, should note that constant
attention to details such as service and quality can be a better
investment than a few million pounds of advertising.
Honestly, it’s not just because my colleague, Simon Marquis, has landed
a big job at Zenith (no, really), but I’ve taken to reading the job ads
recently. It’s been an unhappy experience: they leave me feeling
inadequate, a cork bobbing helplessly in a sea of marketing jargon.
Two recent ads asked for ’channel marketers’, but failed to explain how
a ’channel marketer’ was different from any other kind of marketer. One
wanted an ’offensive marketing expert’, a familiar but ambiguous term.
Is that offensive as in the opposite of inoffensive or defensive? And
anyway, what’s wrong with a bit of inoffensive marketing?
The most puzzling ad claimed that a client, unnamed, was
’charismatically changing the course of a service-oriented environment’,
which is, to put it politely, an interesting use of English. Two others
demanded candidates who could ’think outside the box’. Along with
’pushing the envelope’, this must be the most tired cliche in the
Clients obviously want to hire straight-thinking, smart, innovative
How they think they can achieve this by using language that is anything
but beats me.