800 Rebranding Pizzology

Rebranding Pizzology

Italy meets Indy

Waaaay back in 2012, we took Neal Brown and the Pizzology team through our Hands-on Branding process en route to developing a new identity, launching an updated website, prototyping, designing, and redesigning a custom menu system, and churning out dozens of fun promotional pieces, including exhibition design (storefront signage and wayshowing) shirts, ads, and pizza boxes.

And unlike most of our projects, I’m embarrassed to say we never featured it. There was never a blog post or in-depth writeup because there was never a clean end to the work. Never a time when we could pause, take stock of what we’ve done and share it. And that extends to present day when we’re, right now, redesigning their website to be responsive and feature easy-to-use online ordering.

 

 

So after all these years of our work being out in the wild (and 2 additional Pizzology locations opening), we thought we’d finally take a look back at the branding process to see how their messaging has evolved over time.

When we first started working with Pizzology, then a young restaurant, they were already doing many things people now take for granted. They were sourcing seasonally from local farmers. They were making many of their own ingredients in-house, including sausage, pizza dough, and cheese. And much of what they weren’t making themselves (or buying locally), they were sourcing direct from Italy. All of that combined and cooked in a wood-fired oven using traditional Italian methods made for some pretty damn good pizza.

The project kicked off with us spending a day in Pizzology’s flagship Carmel kitchen where we got the chance to make our own pizzas. Or try to make our own pizzas, at least. I distinctly remember hearing a line cook call my attempt a “sad Charlie Brown pizza.”

Along with that disheartening experience (I kid), we spoke with chefs, servers, customers, investors, advisors, distributors, and local farmers to identify several compelling messages and potential brand essences. Early on, it was determined that our biggest goal was to make fine dining more accessible. Some ideas to support this included:

1. Craft Pizza

excerpt from internal branding / positioning document:

“Transcending the Neapolitan style, this food represents an ethos – “Craft Pizza.” Top quality flour, freshly made mozzarella, hand-crafted and slow fermented dough, dry-aged meats and farm-fresh produce are all part of the story – but it’s the final product that matters.”

2. Local Farmers and Local Food

excerpt from internal branding / positioning document:

“While the local food movement suffers from buzzword overload, it’s easy to forget the heart of the matter – family farms are failing, people are getting sick from over-processed food, and animals are being raised in nightmarish conditions. When you support small, local producers, you actively choose to right these wrongs. That’s why Pizzology cares about Local; not to eliminate keywords from an arbitrary checklist, but to foster real change.”

3. Neighborhood Pub

excerpt from internal branding / positioning document:

“People need to feel like they’re part of a community. They need to be recognized, to feel important, and to belong. They need to be able to grab a drink in a safe place after a long, shitty day. An authentic sense of hospitality and familiarity is not something you’ll find at Chili’s, nor at the hottest new bistro in LA. Pizzology can build a community in the niche between impersonal chains and lofty fine dining establishments.”

4. Pizza 101

excerpt from internal branding / positioning document:

“There are some creative things happening at Pizzology. This is cool! But to most people, pizza is something that arrives in a cardboard box at the long end of a corporate supply chain. They probably don’t think or care much about this. To grow the Pizzology customer base, you have to teach people about Neapolitan pizza, perfectly charred crust and all. It can be fun; they might even like it. But this education component is every bit as important as the food itself.”

Each of these ideas informed mood boards that allowed everyone to gather around and openly discuss what they imagined the Pizzology experience should look and feel like, who it should serve, and what role it should play in their lives. After a lively conversation, the final brand essence of a “neighborhood pub” was chosen and everyone ripped the mood boards apart to build their own final art direction piece.

That final mood board was a beautiful mix of the neighborhood pub, craft pizza, and pizza 101 brand essences. It called for a well designed identity, which in and of itself, speaks to an elevated dining experience. But not so overly designed and finicky that it draws attention to itself. A fine line that was toed by using a healthy dose of friendly snark to further take the air out of fine dining. That mood board hung on the wall in our studio, guiding us through the design process as we developed every bit of Pizzology’s communication over the last three years.

 

 

It was a fun place to take the messaging because you essentially have the food quality you’d expect from a fine dining experience in the relaxed atmosphere (and price point) of a local, lived-in favorite pub. And what better onramp, than craft pizza and beer? What’s more democratized than that? Keep your weird edible foams and twigs to yourself. This is pizza, man.

Anyway, it’s been a fun relationship and we’re happy to watch Neal, Erin, and the rest of the Pizzology team (and Neal Brown Hospitality Group, for that matter) develop into a much-loved Indiana restaurant group.

Head over to Pizzology Mass Ave, or in Carmel, or in West Clay, and treat yourself. And be thankful no one from CODO made your pizza.