When is a Pizza Hut not a Pizza Hut?


As reported in B&T today, Domino’s Pizza is going head to head with rival fast food giant Pizza Hut with a $10.5 million marketing push to promote its new pasta range and other menu additions.

From tonight, five-second teaser TV ads will air, to push the ‘fresh nature of the new ranges’ with individuals being bombed with tomatoes, spinach and pasta, as part of a 13 week multimedia campaign to draw more consumers – particularly females.

In the current economic climate, more people are turning to fast food, either as a cheap alternative to rising fresh food costs (especially factors like drought and floods harming local produce supply in Australia, and sending prices upwards) or people trading down to them from mid-tier restaurants.  McDonald’s have been reporting slight increases in sales in a global recessionary market.

Domino’s are denying their pasta line is a ‘me too’ reaction to Pizza Hut’s recent launch of their pasta range, and is founded upon long-term product development.  However the two pizza retailers perform with the added brand extensions, they look to have avoided making any drastic changes to their brand image/name, unlike the UK Pizza Hut chain in October 2008.  Pizza Hut introduced 12 Tuscani style pasta dishes across its 700 UK restaurants and ‘temporarily’ renamed some of the stores ‘Pasta Hut’, with nine restaurants changing signage to ‘Pasta Hut’ immediately.

The story gained thousands of column inches in the news, but in the opinion of branding experts, was labelled as a cheap stunt, serving to ultimately dilute the strength of the brand offering, confuse consumers, and eat into 50 years of brand equity in the ‘Pizza Hut’ name.  Questions were asked;  Was it changed for all stores?  Do they only do pasta now?  Is this permanent or are they going to change it straight back ‘by popular demand’?

The official line from Pizza Hut in Jan 2009 was the latter; that after their ‘temporary’ name change, their online poll 3 months into the trial showed that 81 percent of voters wanted them to keep the Pizza Hut name.

One of the basic principles of marketing a blue chip brand is developing prudent, long-term, sustainable solutions.  Adding a pasta salad shouldn’t change the overall model!  It looks as though the Australian market has learnt a lesson from their foreign counterparts.

copyright FRANk Media 2018