rebranding the hut

hutIn one of the worst “re-branding” moves that I’ve ever seen, Pizza Hut is dropping pizza from its name and will now be known in some locations as just ‘The Hut‘.

What a great move. Trash over 50 years of brand equity for something that makes me think of a dark dank dwelling in the Third World. Of course, it’s been coming for awhile. They’ve brand-extended themselves to oblivion instead of doing the core product (pizza!) well.

What makes it even more sad/funny is the delusion they’ve sold themselves and are now sending out in media relations…

…characterized the name change as an attempt to transform its stores into hip hangouts…..The new “hut” stores will be more than a place to simply pick up some take-out…they will include televisions that broadcast CBS programs such as “Wheel of Fortune” and “Entertainment Tonight.”

Because we all know the kids think that nothing can be more “hip” than Wheel of Fortune. Maybe they could reach back into the CBS archives and air old episodes of ‘Murder She Wrote’ to be even more hip.

They just may have a bad case of self-loathing with their name. They’ve tried to “rebrand” the Pizza Hut name on several previous occasions like “Pizza Hut Pizza & Pasta Cafe”, “Pizza Hut Italian Bistro”, “Pizza Hut WingStreet”, and the half-joking April Fools’ prank, “Pasta Hut”. A smart guy once said “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity”

Hey Yum!, listen up. The problem is not the Pizza Hut name. The problem is the customer experience. Even though your spokesperson, Christopher Fuller, gave a cheesy non-answer to real issues, the facts are clear in the public’s mind: Your employees don’t care. Your stores are dirty. Your service is horrible. (In one of my local Pizza Huts, there’s a sign above the lunch buffet that says not to even bother requesting any type of pizza because they aren’t going to do it.) And as I previously said in this post, you have forgotten your core product.

In kneejerk fashion, other chains may follow the move:

  • Dominos will become “Backgammon”
  • Papa Johns will become “Papa Smurfs”
  • McDonalds will become “Mick”
  • Taco Bell will become “The Bell”
  • KFC will become “Sammy Nellas”
  • Burger King will become “CP+B”

You’re an idiot. Buy our stuff.

A new trend for the last few months in “me-too” marketing has companies telling their customers that they are stupid. From Burger King discontinuing the Whopper to Microsoft trying to convince people that Vista isn’t as bad as they think it is, there suddenly are an avalanche of “A-ha! I tricked the customer” campaigns bombarding the public.

Aside from the poor decision to imitate other campaigns (Got Milk, run amok), these ads are just bad on several levels. And the one that’s killing me most is Pizza Hut.

I’m about fed up with Pizza Hut anyway as they are the poster child for R&D train wrecks. There are only so many ways you can put cheese, sauce, and dough together. And guys, you ran out of variations a few years ago.

But this entire campaign, whether for the chocolate dunkers or for these pastas, says that “we have to trick people into eating our food”.

All of these trickery campaigns have a basic problem. They talk down to the people that they’re trying to get into the store. Hello potential customer! Did you know that we think you’re as bright as these morons who don’t know they’re eating “bacon flavored mac and cheese” in an Italian restauarant!?

Sure. 99% of a brand is perception. And if you have a large negative perception like with the MSFT Vista example, maybe you need to do something to rock the boat to challenge those perceptions.

On the other hand, if you have that large a negative perception, you’ve got bigger troubles with your brand than a cheesy ad campaign will fix.

Do one thing and do it well

Do one thing and do it well.

It works great for plucky start-ups and companies old enough to know it’s the only way.

It’s the companies in the middle that start reaching for everything and abandoning the core product/service that brought them to the top.

Brand fanatics call this “brand extention”. Brand extention only works to the point that you’re still in the business you started with. Once Taco Bell puts anything on a bun (and they have in the past), it won’t work. Pizza Hut can only truly get away with things involving crust, sauce, and cheese.

Two items in the news…
Walmart is going “upscale“.
Google is putting out a new product about every two weeks.

Good idea?

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