“We obviously have not been happy with the performance of the relaunch of Pizza Hut,” Greg Creed, CEO of parent Yum! Brands Inc. said last Wednesday at the Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference in New York City.
Really? How much did you pay for that mistake, Pizza Hut? Flavor of Now was never about brand.
We called this failure even before it was fully launched back in November of last year. Now, its CEO is raising the white flag. Originally calling this the largest rebrand of Pizza Hut in more than 50 years, Pizza Hut is now losing ground (3.7% last year) and must go back and figure out what it needs to do.
There is a single fundamental flaw in the Pizza Hut rebrand. I won’t use terms like differentiation, positioning or branding because companies like Pizza Hut confuse them and improperly define what they mean. The issue is that Pizza Hut’s failure to change customer behavior (i.e., get more customers to choose them) was because it actually failed to change.
Sure, Pizza Hut came up with some new menu items, hoping to appeal to a more diverse customer but it did it without any fundamental knowledge of the customer. I bet that Pizza Hut will tell me it had all sorts of usage and attitude studies and countless focus groups that said the Flavor of Now is what people wanted yet it still failed. Why?
Pizza Hut should call us.
Understanding your consumer must go way beyond focus groups and usage & attitude studies. Aspirations, beliefs, and fears are what make brands, not balsamic drizzles. Are good ingredients important? Sure. Are a variety of menu options important? Sure. But tell me how that differentiates Pizza Hut from anyone in the pizza delivery business? Those are table stakes. Domino’s doesn’t even use pizza in its name anymore if that tells you anything about the importance of menu items.
At the core of all good brands is the fundamental understanding of the aspirations, beliefs and fears of the target audience and being that highly polished mirror that, when a customer sees your brand, they see themselves. Look in Pizza Hut’s mirror and what do you see? Cheap pizza delivered. Even with its rebrand, cheap pizza is still the only reason that Pizza Hut has given anyone to choose. If I want pizza delivered, I can choose from a dozen places, including pizzerias that can actually make decent pizza.
Since Pizza Hut has not given me any reason to choose, why would I choose differently?
Luckily for Pizza Hut, Flavor of Now has not damaged anything. It was just an expensive exercise in being unhelpful and non-resonate. All hope is not lost for Pizza Hut, but I am sure that its franchisees won’t tolerate too much more of corporate’s unproductive and expensive rebranding exercises. So I say to you Pizza Hut, it’s again time for a Pizza Hut rebrand. You may not get a third shot at it.