# Legalize Cheese - Don't Stop Believin'

Real-Time Marketing, Big Time Success with #LegalizeCheese

March 2, 2015by Ginny Brocker

On most days, folks in Wisconsin and Washington harbor no animosity toward one another. But with the 2015 NFC Championship on the line, the states declared all-out, all-in-good-fun war.

The shot heard ’round the nation came when Bainbridge Island, a small township in Washington’s Kitsap County, issued an executive order banning cheese possession and consumption.

While Wisconsin radio stations responded by expelling Washington indie rockers from the airwaves, the response of another Midwest brand renowned for using real Wisconsin cheese prompted cheeseheads to rise up, gaining national attention. That brand: Toppers Pizza.

Though luck played a part in this moment, as with any key real-time marketing triumph, making sure you have the right conditions in place can mean the difference between a social sensation and a snafu.

Prepare yourself for a real-time marketing megahit by mirroring the steps in this story.

Capitalize on Current Events

Bainbridge Island’s fun and outrageous opening salvo had even football fans with no stake in the game talking. While that wave began to crest, the idea arose of “What would happen if a Toppers delivery driver tried to run pizza laden with cheese through the doors of city hall?”

The takeaway: Keep on the pulse of pop culture and current conversation and see how your brand might fit in.

Establish Fast and Open Communication

The concept was simple: show a Toppers team member’s mugshot after being “arrested” for breaking the executive order. A responsive Toppers team open to ideas as bold as their pizza quickly gave it the green light.

The takeaway: Pinpoint the key decision makers who can OK big plans fast and establish a direct line of communication to them. Set the expectation with each and every one of them that if an opportunity arises, you may need an answer quickly.


Know Where to Reach the Target Audience

The Internet is the quickest way to get your message out into the world, and social media helps get it in front of the people who might care about it most. We posted the photo to Toppers Facebook page and put a few ad dollars behind it. Soon, fanatics were expressing “outrage” at the team member’s imprisonment. The campaign had begun.

The takeaway: Digital channels not only allow for rapid publishing but also for rapid consumption and sharing. Word of mouth in this space means exponential reach for you when influencers catch wind of a juicy story.

Quickly Evolve the Idea

With the post a hit, we took it one step further, unleashing a #LegalizeCheese hashtag campaign that erupted across Facebook and Twitter. Every time a fan posted a photo with the hashtag, they scored a free pizza.

Immediately seeing the target audience adoption around the idea, Toppers Pizza CEO Scott Gittrich quickly hopped onto Facebook to up the stakes via a social video. If the Green Bay Packers won, every Toppers order in Wisconsin would be entitled to a free extra cheese upgrade.

The takeaway: Continue to build on your idea even after it’s been released based on what’s working and how the situation is evolving. See where the message is going and adapt accordingly. You’ll never know when your original idea will open a new door to something bigger.

Identify Interested Influencers

The campaign caught the attention of the masses, raking in hundreds of participants and the notice of national media outlets. We identified and reached out to the editors who had covered the Bainbridge Island cheese ban and found them hungry for more, leading to 116 secured placements. (The stories landed on outlets like Buzzfeed and Good Morning America, just to name a few.)

The takeaway: Media also look to social media to determine the potential for a story’s popularity. Use social images and responses when pitching. Research who would be most accepting of your message and make them your primary target.

And when all is said and done, it’s real results that matter most. Though the Packers lost, Toppers won big with sales up 9 percent over the same weekend the previous year.

The key takeaway? Success is in the setup. If your decision-makers are prepped in a process that will put them at the ready and your creatives and communicators are armed to generate and execute ideas rapidly, you too are set for success.

Re-live #LegalizeCheese by taking a look at just some of the crazy tweet entries Toppers received.

Subscribe to Blogworthy
Stay fueled.

Sign up for Hiebing Marketing Fuel, our monthly newsletter, and we’ll send even more real-world inspiration and information straight to your inbox.