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How I Helped Totinos Retarget Pizza Rolls

A number of years ago, I was brought in by Pillsbury to help them understand their Totino’s Pizza Roll positioning. There was some speculation that it competed with Tortilla Chips and Dip at Super Bowl parties. It would be more interesting because it was hot and less messy. That would provide a seasonal boost to revenues but would not be a regular item.

Was there another more lucrative option?

The brand team knew there was a small segment of buyers who bought them fairly frequently. We were able to identify these “loyal” users and bring them into focus groups to chat with them.

The first groups were among the Moms who purchased the pizza rolls. They were buying them for their 10 – 14 year old sons. These were NOT for their already weight conscious same aged girls. [An interesting aside: Girls stop growing 2 years earlier than boys. The growth spurt for boys is accelerated during their Totino Pizza Roll years.]. The second set of groups were among the kids.

What we learned was fascinating.

Pizza Rolls were perfect for boys after school. They were “starving” and couldn’t wait for dinner. Pizza Rolls were hearty and easy to make. These kids were growing and super active, so they needed extra fuel. All they had to do was pop them in the microwave and have a pizza snack while doing their homework.

The value to the kid was having something they could make easily without having to get Mom to make it for them. They were learning how to feed themselves and be self sufficient.

The value to the Mom was in helping her boy start to take care of himself at the same time she earned some free time for herself.

These tasty little snacks represented freedom and independence for kid and Mom. Mom was free to leave knowing her son could fend for himself, and even a little proud to see him asserting his abilities. Kid could enjoy a delicious, satisfying snack that he could eat on his own or share with friends.

Pizza Rolls were also laughingly described as “training wheels” for the Barbecue grill that dad was in charge of. It was how the kids safely learned to play with fire without getting burnt. Later in life they would Man the firepit outside.

Understanding what the product did for Mom and Kids invited the brand team to optimize the product for ease of use. The resulting package was a good sized single serving for one hungry boy that went from freezer to microwave to table to trash. Tasty, Easy, Fast and Neat.

The ad that was based on these insights was very successful. It showed a kid doing homework at the kitchen table. He scoots to the freezer on his roller chair, grabs a package of Totino’s Pizza Rolls, tosses it in the Microwave and then shoots back to the table with his bounty.

Here’s a short excerpt from an interview with the brand manager a few years later.

Sharon: How did the product do?

Steve: Extremely well. When we did this work we ended up actually cutting our production allocation because we couldn’t produce enough.

Sharon: Wow.

Steve: And if I recall right, we ended up building another line just to produce, but it’s growing like wild fire still.

Sharon: Do you think it’s being used by the target market that you selected?

Steve: Absolutely. I think we hit the bull’s eye on that.

Why am I telling you this?

Because choosing your target market profile and your niche is critical to your success. If Totino’s had marketed to the Super Bowl gang, they would have had lackluster profits.

But Pillsbury did its homework and discovered who their best customer segment was, what they wanted and tailored their Pizza Roles to meet those wants and needs.

Take a look at the original ad here:

So how well do you know your customers and how your product or services resonates with their wants, needs and lives? How can you optimize your offering to best match their user profiles?

Would you like some ideas on how to talk to them? Happy to share thoughts. 603-505-5000 or email me

To your success

Sharon Livingston, Ph.D.

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