Shine Lion Shine United

Case Study: Brand Revitalization

Toppers Pizza

Marketing communications as a strategic lever

Case Studies / Toppers Pizza


Let's face facts: The pizza category is a sea of sameness, populated with major players spending tens of millions of dollars, year after year, screaming limited-time offers, discounts and promotions.

Amid this backdrop, Toppers Pizza, a regional chain founded in 1991 in Champaign, Illinois, had found initial success through unique products, bold messaging and a focus on the college market.

But as often happens with growth, there was a loss of focus. A change in their franchise expansion strategy led to a corresponding migration from “irreverent fun” to “suburban safe.” The inevitable result of this “all-things-to-all-people” approach? A loss of momentum — and the first-ever decrease in same-store sales and order counts.

Our comprehensive business, brand and marketing audit revealed the obvious: A lack of focus.


Our comprehensive business, brand and marketing audit revealed the obvious: A lack of focus. Toppers' evolution to “me, too” marketing — bland, functional and product-focused — was at the heart of the problem.

A renewed focus on the college “Life Junkie” target audience. A radical reposition focused on owning “Irreverence” in a relevant, contemporary manner. And a bold, comprehensive brand makeover — reinvigorating every point-of-contact between consumers and the brand — to own the college market once again.

Just six months after the campaign, same-store sales went from red to black with a total increase of 13%; likewise, same-store order counts increased 14% in the same reporting period. All of this on a 1% communications budget increase — and amid a category that was down 5% overall.

01 / Logo / Identity
02 / Poster
03 / Menu
04 / Direct Mail
05 / College Newspaper Advertising
06 / On-Hold Messaging


Dear Diary

Dictionary Letter M


"Great brands start with a focused audience and focused point of difference. We've always had both, but we were afraid to really go after it in a meaningful way. With Shine's help, we have unleashed the potential of our company and brand by focusing on the college market and allowing our irreverent personality to come to life. Within our organization, the new campaign has been met with excitement and undying support. I believe in the process and I would do it again.”

— Scott Gittrich, founder and president of Toppers Pizza