Pizza Hut has introduced a new sub-brand, or at least a new logo, along with new red pizza-delivery boxes:
The company's chief marketing officer, Brian Niccol, told Brandweek in March that the red box "is a game changer in packaging and design." That's how CMOs talk, you know. Niccol also said:
And yes, we're also introducing another vocabulary word with Pizza Hut, which is 'The Hut.' That ties in nicely with [today's] texting generation. We wanted to make sure that Pizza Hut and 'The Hut' become common vernacular for our brand. Red is our mark and when you see that red roof, people will refer to it as 'The Hut' or 'Pizza Hut.' As we expand our online and mobile businesses, 'The Hut' is the perfect icon for our mobile generation.
"Introducing another vocabulary word"? Which word would that be, Mr. Niccol: The? Or hut? Because I'm pretty sure hut has been around since, oh, the seventeenth century, and the even longer.
Then there's the obligatory kowtowing to "[today's] texting generation," a k a young whippersnappers. "Again with the texting!" Ben Zimmer, executive producer of Visual Thesaurus, wrote in an e-mail to me. "That's the same rationale they used for Syfy"—the recent renaming of the SciFi Channel.
PizzaHut, however, is taking pains to let us know that this doesn't represent a name change. PizzaHut.com says on its home page: "Pizza Hut is not changing its name. We are proud of our name and heritage and will continue to be Pizza Hut. We do use 'The Hut' in some of our marketing efforts."
A red box and a "vocabulary word" are not going to change the fact that consumers are not consuming as much pizza. Same-store sales were down for Pizza Hut in the fourth quarter of last year. And while the company has started using "The Hut" phrase on its printed materials and storefronts, a quick name change isn't going to fix that problem.
"We think that 'The Hut' is to Pizza Hut as Coke is to Coca-Cola," Fuller said. "We have begun using the term in conjunction with Pizza Hut in our advertising, pizza boxes and some restaurants."
To my surprise, Armin Vit of Brand New, an authoritative identity-design blog, said he doesn't "mind" the new design direction. I'm not a graphic designer, but I find the font ugly, the underscore awkward, and the shadow-lines (do they have a technical name?) distracting. And the dumb Borsalino-fedora icon remains as dopey as ever. Do they want people to refer to the chain as The Hat?
Or are they thinking about something else altogether? In that case, you might want to brush up on your Huttese.