Idea File: Creative marketing? Think inside the (pizza) box.

Today’s idea sharing model

As a native New Yorker, loving pizza is part of my cultural DNA. Besides the delicious combination of cheese, sauce, and bread, it’s the only food that makes me think about both Sunday family dinners and late night grease-fests with friends.

And now I can add idea sharing to that list thanks to Lonesome’s, a pizza place in my new home of Portland, OR. With every pie I order, I’m guaranteed to find on the inside cover a story about a local artist – plus their CD or DVD. While chomping on a slice recently, I read about a funk band that was in the process of opening up a music charter school in Portland.


The names of their pies make me giggle. I recommend “My dad vs. your dad.” Photo credit: Heather Zinger (

I’ve ordered from Lonesome’s before, but it was this bit about the charter school that made me think about using pizza boxes to  get the word out about nonprofit programs, raise awareness around a particular issue, and/or highlight good ideas.

This idea doesn’t have to be limited to pizza. If you own a business or know someone who does, think creatively about how you can use your products or services to get the word out about all the awesome community work going on. Letting people know about an innovative bartering schoolis a much nicer use of space than, say, promoting the latest flavor of Mountain Dew.


  • Novelty. Create buzz for both the project and the pizza place.
  • Cost effective. All you need is photocopies, glue, and someone to spend the time attaching materials.
  • Community engagement. Local businesses + local efforts = a win-win connection.
  • Universality. Who doesn’t like pizza? According to Food Industry News, 93% of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. Maybe that number will increase once there’s some local do-gooderness in the box.


  • Buy in. Nonprofits might think it’s too weird, and navigating the bureaucracy of big chains might be challenging. Local mom and pop restaurants are probably the best bet.
  • Adding to the marketing clutter. More paper that might end up in the recycling bin.
  • Disinterest. “Please, I just want to eat my pizza in peace.”

What do you think – might delivery boxes be another way to communicate with your community? What’s the most creative partnership you’ve seen a local business strike with a local organization?

Read more Idea File posts here.

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Comments (9)

  1. CalLadyQED writes:
    April 8, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Ewww. Why would I want photographs and all the ink and glue and junk touching my pizza. Betcha it’s not “food safe” ink and paper either. Gross. I wouldn’t eat that pizza.

  2. RoseRiveter writes:
    April 8, 2011 at 8:01 am

    Nothing like talking like a pre-teen to get a point across. I’m not sure what pizza you eat but the top isn’t supposed to touch it. Note the tell-tale mini plastic “table” in the center of the pie there and the lack of cheese and sauce on the photos.

    This seems like a great idea to make people more aware of local culture. I, personally, have not noticed any creative partnerships in my area though. At least no more than businesses sponsoring events and the like.

  3. Dawn writes:
    April 8, 2011 at 8:46 am

    If anyone’s worried about the ink getting in their pizza, there’s this thing called plastic wrap that’s easy for someone to stretch over the lid to protect the photos from grease AND keep your pizza ink-free! Of course, it’s a small added cost, and a bit of extra waste. But if you are really that picky, you’ve got bigger problems than ink in your pizza. Do you realize how many spiders you’ve probably swallowed while sleeping? How much dust settles on your face/in your orifices on a daily basis? Do you KNOW where that shopping cart handle has been? (Now you’ll never want to sleep or shop!)

    I like the idea, although I never order pizza. We prefer to buy frozen or make our own. Another great one for market reach would be dairy products. Egg cartons can be printed or scribbled on (and don’t face the same ink-in-food problems as a hot pizza) and milk cartons (half-gallons, pints) already have a tradition of putting interesting things on the back… yogurt might be tougher to find locally but imagine what you could do if Yoplait or Dannon suddenly started printing your nonprofit’s info on the underside of their yogurt lids!

  4. AJoy writes:
    April 8, 2011 at 9:47 am

    I think, if nothing else, this is a great way to get NPOs to think about more creative ways to market themselves. Far to often smaller nonprofits fall in the trap of doing the same ol’ thing and getting minimal payoff because of all the other organizations in the community using the same strategies (uh um…golf tournaments, 5Ks, articles in the paper, emails from friends, etc.). While these strategies can be very effective, the sheer volume of these activities prevents one organization from really standing out. The pizza box marketing is a good idea, with some logistics to think about, but all the same, it may spark some really unique and effective marketing efforts for smaller nonprofits and businesses.

  5. Jacqueline Horani writes:
    April 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I think that it’s a great idea! In Omaha, we have a few niches developing with a focus on the conscious cosmopolitan college student and I think it’s in areas like those that this idea could take off. Furthermore, to address the idea of whether or not people would want to partake, there could be an additional $2 charge for a pizza with a local artist kit, and the money would be donated to the specific group. One thing I would be concerned about is for those that order multiple pizzas, or several a week, to make sure that they don’t get repeats. I think the milk carton or yogurt idea is too commercialized and packed with bureaucracy to accept such an idea, but definitely the small local businesses should be taking the lead in helping to create a local culture.

  6. Go800 writes:
    April 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Creative marketing is the best way to get people’s attention. People may be more inclined to donate to various non-profits if they learned about them in interesting ways (i.e. pizza box) or had easy and fun ways to connect to them. Right now, Go800 is working on introducing its text-to-talk service to various non-profits so that donators can simply text the non-profits personalized keyword to 46800 to be connected to them within seconds. People remember the names of non-profit organization but remembering or looking up a number takes more work. We want non-profits to be able to use Go800 to get the word out to potential donators about their organization. Just another way to think outside the box.

  7. RachelPDX writes:
    April 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I’m a local Portlandian who orders Lonesome’s Pizza all the time and loves it (and for the record, they actually use food safe materials/adhesive for the inserts). For me, it has the same appeal that the back of the cereal box did when I was a kid… and they’re using the boxes to not only get the word out about some non profits but also to help and aid local and young artists into getting more recognition. The boxes are designed so that the main focus is “isn’t this cool” but there is always a way to get more information to buy or donate if you’re interested. in my opinion it’s a great win/win type situation – lonesomes has a little something extra to offer their customers and the nonprofit/artists get their name out there for no cost to them

  8. biobethanol writes:
    April 24, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Oh man! Lonesome’s is awesome in so many ways!
    1) the pizza is great
    2) you get a zine, or documentary or other story of interest in each box
    3) the names they pick for the pizzas are hilarious and also change at the owner’s will
    4) they deliver till 4 am or something crazy like that

    This is pizza meets punk rock. If you don’t want cool stuff in your pizza box there are a million pizza chains that don’t do anything, buy from them. RachelPDX nailed it. Opening a pizza from Lonsome’s is like the adult version of toys in a cereal box!

  9. A Non writes:
    April 27, 2011 at 2:44 am

    cons: Where are the female artists? I see one now, before there weren’t any. Totally lame.

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