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."
As Econsultancy observed on Monday:
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.
And the consumer-advocacy site WalletPop, which fielded "scores" of comments from "disgruntled Pizza Hut patrons" after reporting the development, quoted Pizza Hut spokesman Christopher Fuller:
"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.
Well,"hut" in German is "hat," so I'd say your Borsalino assessment is dead on. I've been calling it Pizza Hat for that reason for years (amusing only myself, but still . . . )
Posted by: Jessica | June 23, 2009 at 01:34 PM
They're doing this backwards. It would be one thing if the younger generations had taken to calling it "the Hut" on their own. McDonald's can play with "Mickey D's" if they want to because that entered people's vernacular naturally, I think. Top-down slangy nicknames from corporate masters seem bound to fail.
Posted by: Amy Reynaldo | June 23, 2009 at 02:36 PM
Nancy, great post and topic!
Personally, I think of Jabba when I hear "the Hut," and I'm not even a Star Wars fan, so thanks for the hot tip on Huttese.
Perhaps the movement in the fedora direction is to avoid conflict with another red roof (http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=78841891)-- where I suspect a lot of pizzas have been delivered over the years: http://www.redroof.com/
All of this talk of trademark truncation reminds me of Gatorade's trimming to G (http://www.duetsblog.com/2009/04/articles/branding-letter-g-will-lightning-strike-or-will-thunder-be-stolen/) and Holiday Inn's adoption of a stylized H: http://www.duetsblog.com/2009/06/articles/w-h-o-r-u-exposing-singleletter-trademark-envy-in-hotel-branding/.
Given the present marketing obsession with owning single letters -- the ultimate truncation -- perhaps the move to "The Hut" is merely an intermediary stepping stone to the ultimate goal, the letter H?
Posted by: Steve Baird | June 23, 2009 at 05:42 PM