I have blogged on the pizza QSR segment so many times that a listing of all the posts would fill more than a few pages. The reason I have had so much to say about the category is because it has been such a mess for so long. Despite all the chatter, little has changed. Domino’s is still trying to convince us that the pizza tastes good, Papa John’s still wants us to believe that its ingredients are better and Pizza Hut…well, I’m not really sure what it wants us to believe anymore.
It seems that Pizza Hut felt very much the same as I did and have commissioned a plan to rewrite its menu, freshen the decor, logo and packaging. To many, and I’m sure Pizza Hut would agree, this is a rebrand of sorts. I can’t comment on the new look and feel because they have not been released, but rebranding is a lot more than that. If Pizza Hut wants to grow market share, it will need to do a much better job of understanding the prospect. (Read more about the Quick Service Restaurant Market Here)
The creative logo, menu and pizza boxes must fulfill that understanding. In the past, Pizza Hut has not seemed to grasp that importance. As a result, it has been stuck in the trenches of fighting for the loyalty of the $10 pizza hunter. Like everyone else in the category, it lives and dies by coupons, specials and sales offers.
Think about this category. It is so bad that one of the principle players has been able to separate itself from the crowd by claiming better ingredients. That’s akin to a bottled water company gaining preference by claiming its water is wet. This is actually embarrassing.
A few years back, I met with a few Pizza Hut executives who had interest in Stealing Share. We talked about brand anthropology and how to go about changing behavior and how that starts with a brand overhaul. I warned them that the kind of change needed to move a market was more than an ad campaign. However, they had, just prior to our meeting, hired the Martin Agency and they had misplaced confidence in the new agency. They believed that advertising would fix their problem. I asked them why agency tenure is 2.5 years, on average? Possibly the problem is not agency creative, but an attachment to internal culture.
I hope they succeed this time. My guess, however, is that, aside from new menu items, little will have changed and Pizza Hut NEEDS change. We challenged Pizza Hut and I think it wants agreement and not challenge. Maybe that has changed? Maybe Pizza Hut is ready for the kind of brand shift that changes everything. Or is this just about pizza?