Last week, Pizza Hut received some negative attention when a rumor started that the company was changing its name to "The Hut." It is not. Pizza Hut issued a press release late on Friday to dispel the news:

"To the loyal fans of Pizza Hut and pizza lovers around the world, we're happy to tell you that nothing is changing, we're still Pizza Hut, America's Favorite Pizza."

While they will be retaining their name, a larger problem still persists. Pizza Hut thinks "The Hut" is a modern phrase.

The naming confusion seems to have stemmed from a March article in BrandWeek where Pizza Hut CMO Brian Niccol outlined the ways Pizza Hut is updating its image:

"Design is a great way to create an emotional expression for your brand. But the pizza category has been a real laggard in doing that. Our red box is a game changer in packaging and design. 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."

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. 

According to Lawrence Vincent, Group Director of Strategy at Seigal & Gale, shortening Pizza Hut's name might help fit references into Twitter's 140 character limit, but it also "takes them a step away from what they’re really about."

Pizza Hut has been expanding its menu with items like pasta and chicken wings and going for a more "natural" menu featuring whole wheat crust and sauce made from organic tomatoes. But eliminating pizza from its name could actually hurt the company's hold on the market where it excels - selling pizza. Not to mention the fact that "The Hut" is a rather generic and antiquated name.

Other brands have been moving towards shortening and nicknamign their brands. Burger King goes by BK. McDonald's sometimes goes by Mickey D's. And Pizza Hut's parent company also owns KFC, which easily did away with the pesky word "fried" by abbreviating its name from Kentucky Fried Chicken.

But even successful branding doesn't neccessarily change diners' eating habits. Today AdAge reported that a critically acclaimed branding campaign has not helped Burger King's sales. Despite a five year long ad blitz, the company is still losing share to McDonald's.

McDonald's on the other hand, has succeeded with traditional advertising and a name at least as antiquated as "Pizza Hut." They are managing to get people to come in for some of the healthier additions to their menu and still going strong with the not so healthy mainstays. 

While reworking a name could be a great way to update a brand's image, it helps if the brand shift is more than just lip service. "The Hut" may have brought Pizza Hut renewed attention, but huts aren't exactly something the "mobile generation" is going to glom onto. Unless, of course they are mocking it on Twitter, an activity which is still going on today.

According to Vincent: "Even if you’re using natural ingredients, you’re still in the pizza business. Using an abstract name just creates a bigger marketing challenge."

Meghan Keane

Published 22 June, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (2)

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Ken

All I can think of is Jabba

over 8 years ago

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Carlo

Great post. That is definitely a big challenge. I'm all for the better ingredients which is why when I am given the choice of ordering pizza I always go for Papa Johns. The tag line "Better Ingredients, Better Pizza" always makes me think that there is a healthier choice of pizza which is Papa Johns. Up until now I wasnt even aware of the whole wheat crust??? They should step that message up, they would be converting me if they did so I think that would be a step in the right direction.

over 8 years ago

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