Showing posts with label Pizza Hut. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pizza Hut. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 24

Making News: Pizza Hut Tries Presidential Publicity

Pizza Wars
Author and public relations professional Gini Dietrich wrote a great article about the publicity stunt gone sort of wrong for Pizza Hut last week. The pizza chain promised one person a lifetime of pizza if he or she asked President Obama or Mitt Romney whether they liked sausage or pepperoni.

When Pizza Hut received some push back, it decided to skip the publicity stunt and came up with something else instead. Inexplicably, this decision divided some public relations professionals and journalists. Some thought that stunt was brilliant. Some thought the stunt was stupid.

What surprisingly few people did was distinguish public relations from publicity.

Sure, publicity sometimes works as a public relations function. And sometimes it operates under the umbrella of marketing. Either way, the idea is basically the same. If you don't have news, make some.

The idea is lock step with some of the many stunts done by Edward Bernays, the man who is most often credited as the father of modern public relations. He advocated publicity stunts for all sorts of reasons (including making it less taboo for women to smoke in public), believing the news to be the very best carrier for any message.

Of course, public relations as a field (and many but not all practitioners) have grown up since the shift from propaganda to public relations. Specifically, it grew up when several professionals began to realize that public relations didn't have to rely on manipulation. It was much more effective when practiced with the organization and its publics in mind.

This, more than anything else, is the reason there was an insider kerfuffle over the stunt. Some praise it as creativity-minded public relations while others look as such cute or stupid stunts as diminishing the evolution of public relations as a management function. Honestly, the whole discussion is kind of silly. Except one thing.

Publicity that aims only for attention is a wasted effort. 

When employed by public relations, there is such a thing as good publicity and bad publicity. Most people, including myself on occasion, have a bad habit of evaluating stunts based on the measure of their creativity. The truth is that we ought to evaluate it based on its strategic substance.

What would Pizza Hut have gained had the stunt worked? Would it make you more inclined to buy their pizza or any pizza? Would have it have reinforced their brand or mission statement? Probably not.

Of all the pizza chains out there, Pizza Hut is the one that best exemplifies the shotgun approach to marketing and public relations. They mostly promote cheap pizza, big servings, limited time pizzas, exclusive sides, gimmick campaigns, crossover product offerings, world hunger, literacy, etc., etc. — more messages than toppings.

Pizza Hut doesn't always have marketing madness. Its communication tends to expand and contract. Two years ago, for example, it was winning with a tighter message. Right now, it has a loose message. The result? Domino's profit was up 18 percent in the third quarter. Pizza Hut sales grew too, by 6 percent.

Sure, there is no question it's still the leader, but it still struggles (as all big pizza brands do) against independents that continue to gain ground. Pizza Hut used to have an 18 percent market share. Nowadays, it's down to 15 percent in the United States as big chains continue to compete against each other based mostly on the price of their pies and gimmicks (while always hoping to shore up profits with side orders). Meanwhile, the independents have managed to capture 70 percent of the market.

All this information is just another way of saying that Pizza Hut (which I prefer in comparing the big three except when I have time for a tastier independent) wasted the effort on this publicity stunt because it didn't even reinforce the price point it actually competes on (despite all the noise). If they wanted a worthwhile campaign, maybe they ought to have "cut pizza pie deficit" instead of trying to make sausage and pepperoni a partisan issue. Or, if they wanted to serve themselves and the public, they could start talking about how gas prices must be killing their drivers and hurting pizza delivery.

Tuesday, April 27

Pushing Pies: Pizza Hut, Domino's, Papa John's

With speciality pizzas ranging from coal-fired to innovative gourmet pies crowding out chains for the sitdown crowd, the big three — Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's — are looking to retain dominance over the delivery game. So who's winning?

A Breakdown Of The Big Three.

Pizza Hut. For Pizza Hut, U.S. sales are up 5 percent in the first quarter after struggling last year. The turnaround is hot as the chain believes it found the magic formula. When people order pizza, what they really want is an unbeatable value and quick order convenience.

Pizza Hut has a clear advantage in this arena. By investing in easy order applications across various platforms and networks, ordering is super simple. Quick order apps have also helped make Pizza Hut the most talked about online, often by a margin of 2 to 1. And while the 1958-established pizza chain doesn't cross-connect its online assets, it has still attracted 1.3 million Facebook fans and 29,000 Twitter followers.

Of all its smart moves, the one that stands out the most is its work to implement a global marketing strategy with a localized appeal. Every application allows users to pinpoint their local Pizza Hut and receive hyper-localized offers from franchisers. The biggest misstep, of course, was attempting to be super cool in calling itself "The Hut."

Domino's. Domino's seems to have been hit by a string of bad publicity luck, ever since it accepted blame for two employees who ran amok on YouTube. Every time someone searches the headlines, Domino's has the corner on bad behavior.

Its marketing isn't always much better lately. Even on its Web site, the pizza company calls out its competitors, driving up their brand names as if this number two pizza chain was somehow a distant third or fourth. As for the 30-minute guarantee that helped it rise to to the top? Long gone.

The most recent marketing investment demonstrates heavy exposure without the buzz in connection with American Idol. However, what seems to have always worked well for Coca-Cola didn't translate for pizza pies. The campaign was barely mentioned by anyone online. (In contrast, fans are still taking about Justin Bieber's cameo on the show.)

When Domino's is mentioned online, most of it is related to the recipe mistake. Most people post how bad it sucks. On Facebook, Domino's is closing in on 500,000 fans. On Twitter, a scant 12,500. The most noticeable reason is that there doesn't really seem to be a reason to join. Its increasing corporate image is a turn-off.

Papa John's. No matter what you might think about the Papa John's push to be more Italian, which seems to drift well away from beginnings as humble as Pizza Hut, there is always something to be said for the pizza company that came on strong enough to carve out a niche that used to belong to Little Caesar's and Godfather's.

Despite its 1.2 million Facebook fans, it isn't talked about much online, capturing only a fraction of mentions when compared to Domino's or Pizza Hut. On Twitter, it has only managed 12,000 followers, which is simply a matter of its shout out, no-follow approach to messaging.

Papa John's is hoping to change all that with its "Papa's Specialty Pizza Challenge." People join on Facebook, submit topics, and provide a short write-up of why their pie is unique.

The fine print makes the contest a bit of a spin. The winner gets 1 percent of the sales, up to $10,000, and free pizza for life. The contest finalist also receive $1,000 to help market their creation to victory.

It's Not All About Social. Stick With Core Services.

In terms of domestic sales, the three pizza chains are lock step in order, with Pizza Hut on top, Domino's second, and Papa John's third. If Papa John's could make a break in some segment of its marketing, it could theoretically take on Domino's for the second spot in the next two years (with better expansion plans). Unfortunately, the social media contest isn't it.

The reason Pizza Hut is winning with its promotions isn't only about price. It seems the pizza company has figured out what hits the right spot with U.S. consumers. When consumers want cheap, convenient pies, they want cheap, convenient pies. Pizza Hut is delivering these two points, leaving social media to take care of itself. Consumers seem to like it that way.

In contrast, Papa John's is shooting for social to attract new fans despite saying they are offering the content to "loyal customers." While they might attract pizza fans, the real question is whether they can convert those pizza fans into Papa John's lovers.

Maybe. But right now, it seems more likely they'll attract contest entrants just before those entrants click on one of those super simple Pizza Hut apps and then tweet their friends how easy it is. Get it now? Give people something to talk about and social media will follow. Cater to them too much and they'll talk about everything except your product.

Tuesday, February 19

Pitching In The Dark: Click On, Click Off

If you ever wondered why journalists aren’t crazy for public relations, look no further than the misguided few. I was pitched by the outside public relations team for MyClick Media Limited (MyClick). It was a disaster, from start to non-finish.

The pitch came across like spam.

Headline: If you are working Monday, I would like to introduce you to this technology… Body: … and meet the MyClick team. Please let me know.

The release was loaded with marketing puff.

Release: MyClick is a ground breaking and unique photo recognition Mobile Marketing Platform that empowers all mobile users with the chance to enjoy exciting and exclusive infotainment and m-commerce information upon demand. Translation: MyClick employs photo recognition in promotional material, allowing mobile phone users to take pictures of promotional material to win coupons.

The technology was interesting.

The story is Pizza Hut using MyClick technology for a promotion in mainland China. So despite the pitch deficiencies and the release idiosyncrasies, I decided to follow up despite what appeared to be a one-day holiday offer. My mistake.

The responses were irritating.

“What pub do you work for I am sorry to ask you.”

Never mind they pitched me. Ho hum. Sure, I could have mentioned any number of publications that we string for from time to time, a number of accounts who might be interested in MyClick technology, or my position as an instructor. But that seems like disingenuous carrot dangling to me. So I simply mentioned this blog because they pitched this blog and my intent was to write about MyClick on this blog.

"do you want a face to face"

I’m based in Las Vegas. So considering the public relations firm has offices in California and New York and MyClick is based in China, this seemed a bit extreme for a Pizza Hut promotion. Maybe it’s me, but given the pitch, I assumed the public relations firm might have had something in mind for Monday, unless of course, the whole “Meet the MyClick team on Monday” thing was a ploy. You think?

I said it wasn’t necessary, but put the burden of a solution back on them. Other than answering my question whether the Pizza Hut promotion was exclusive to China, nothing. Yeesh. This was starting to feel like too much work so I alluded to pulling the plug.

I decided to pull the plug.

“Okay,” I wrote. “It's still an interesting concept, but I'm starting to sense you were not prepared for someone to respond to the pitch. So, you've really left me at a loss here. Maybe it would be best to skip it, other than to address the dangers of mass pitch emails.”


My pleasure, sort of. I don’t really want to embarrass the firm completely so I’m omitting their name. Though, I must admit, I am tempted. Bad handling affects the entire industry. Lesson for today: if you aren’t interested in contact, then don’t send an invitation pitch.

Public relations professionals would be better off following the practices of the public relations team working with Loomia, who pitched us a week or so prior. Their pitch was timely, professional, personalized, and what started out as a singular post has now popped up around the Web. I’d work with them anytime they have news.

This post might pop up around the Web too. But I don’t think it’s the kind of coverage MyClick paid for. As for my take on their technology, it has become just another footnote in how bad public relations practices detract from otherwise interesting news.


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