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Opinion and Insight

Why Pizza Hut Needs to Look Beyond Its Recent Rebrand

staging.lbbonline.com, 2 years, 10 months ago

Brand Union's Jessica Lehmann on why customers now want more than words on a page - and how that will keep on affecting the pizza chain

Why Pizza Hut Needs to Look Beyond Its Recent Rebrand

Following a year long process of research and consultation, including an extensive look into what might draw the attractive, but hard to reach, millennial audience into its restaurants, Pizza Hut has rolled out an extensive rebrand. In addition to a revamped menu, the makeover includes a logo refresh, up-scaled digital properties, newly designed packaging and a multi-million dollar advertising campaign to launch ‘The Flavor of Now’ with a bang.

That Pizza Hut has gone full throttle to shake up their offering is hardly surprising. In addition to a decade long pizza-recession, which left their $5.4 billion business in a slump, other key players such as Papa John’s and Domino’s have been quicker off the mark to address the problems associated with the decline such as poor quality and lack of diversity, helping them to gain share from the market leader.


All the while, the millennial generation has been growing up and developing discerning tastes when it comes to food and their environment. Keenly connected via a plethora of social media, they’re always on the hunt for that perfect Instagram shot of a tasty yet extraordinary looking meal. They are shunning gimmicky, lazy food and restaurant offerings in favor of boldly designed spaces with remixed, culturally diverse menus and ingredients with a social conscience. All served up with a side of health and a generous portion of free Wi-Fi.

Pizza Hut’s new foray into adorned crusts, including both curry and ginger based flavors (‘get curried away’, ‘ginger boom boom’), may go some way in responding to the young foodie penchant for exotic, diverse flavors. In addition, the visually pleasing design of the digital properties, reminiscent of the refined art direction found on prolific food and recipe blogs, elevates the experience of creating your own pizza from options in the drop down menus.  Certainly of note is the dark charcoal color that has replaced the Hut’s trademark red. It is extended across the new box and bag designs giving them a bold feeling and tying their solid presence nicely back to the digital aesthetic.


Matters of concern for Pizza Hut’s target audience include not only presence of catchy flavor combinations, though. They’re also thinking about the broad health benefits such as the number of calories present in a meal, provenance of ingredients, and sustainable credentials of the company. It’s hard to picture a pizza pie – even the new ‘skinny’ version which, at 250 calories per slice, may not quite deserve the name – on that plate.

The millennial consumer is drawn to brands that look further than the crusts; brands providing a beginning to end experience that aligns with their values, and provides an honest and compelling argument for why they should spend their hard earned dollars in their restaurants. Chipotle continues to win hands down with this audience because they are prepared to invest in the quality of their ingredients, rather than pushing endless advertising. Even after such a thorough rebrand and shift in direction, not having looked beyond the brands’ visual and sensorial properties might pose a considerable challenge in their quest for relevance.


Reading the reports and listening in on the focus groups are helpful, but when it comes to inspiring people to engage with your brand and eat your product, there are new depths that need to be plundered. ‘The Flavor of Now’ might be on the radar today, but without considering how they can provide a meaningful and relatable experience beyond what’s on the screen and on the plate, they’re only really sending you half of the pie. 


Jessica Lehmann is Director, Strategy at Brand Union