Pizza Hut 3

Summary

Pizza Hut was one of the first western fast food restaurant brands to enter China in the early 90s. However, although the company had more than 2,000 restaurants across the country, it was facing strong competition from the rising number of other western food brands targeting younger consumers. To connect with its younger audience, Pizza Hut wanted to develop its existing, strategic partnership with the world’s leading mobile game, King of Glory. However, the game’s high sponsorship fees impeded further brand-building opportunities. In addition, research showed that this audience tended to engage with peer-to-peer rather than brand-led communications.

Partnering with media agency Mindshare, Pizza Hut’s strategy was therefore to tap into a gaming trend with a shareable, organic social campaign which was designed  to engage the target audience and increase brand relevancy while avoiding costly sponsorship fees. Capitalising on the rising number of female Chinese gamers, Pizza Hut launched a social media call to action to get the first female avatar into the King of Glory game. User-generated content and influencer partnerships fuelled the campaign and united the gaming community behind the cause of female in-game representation. The campaign resulted in 400 million social impressions for Pizza Hut and increased sales.

Objectives & Aims

As part of its parent company Yum! China’s overarching strategy to own the eSports space, Pizza Hut had been the strategic partner of leading mobile game King of Glory since 2016. In the years since, King of Glory’s rising popularity had led to higher sponsorship rates.  At the same time, increasing competition in the food and drink category meant that Pizza Hut needed to work harder to engage younger consumers.

Mindshare was tasked with reigniting Pizza Hut’s ties to the younger gaming community, to increase brand awareness and relevancy among 18-25 year olds as cost effectively as possible.

Implementation, execution and tactics

Pizza Hut’s research among King of Glory users showed that the game’s female user-base had grown by 42% over five years to over 100 million, with the number of female gamers now out-ranking males. The strategy was therefore to tap into this growing female audience, to represent them in the game for the first time with a female avatar-Angela. The campaign’s innovative call to action would fuel its organic shareability. Key to its success was making the campaign feel like a user-generated movement while ensuring that users connected it to Pizza Hut.

Pizza Hut launched the campaign with a video call to action challenging the female gamer community to unite and vote for Angela in the King of Glory’s annual avatar vote to choose its latest characters. Seeded across the brand’s channels on China’s largest social media platform Weibo and on the country’s short-form video-sharing platform Douyin, messaging focused on the thrill of a female avatar being able to defeat the game’s male characters for the first time. Fans were encouraged to create their own call to action videos and share them across their social channels and on male-dominated online communities such as Bilibili and HuPu Sports, to drive votes from both women and men.

Partnerships with relevant leading social female and gaming influencers also increased awareness and further established the campaign’s native content tone.

This user-generated content fuelled the campaign’s organic shareability and popularity. To ensure ongoing awareness that the campaign was owned by Pizza Hut even while it was being claimed by its young audience, the brand offered in-store discounts if Angela won the vote.

Results

The campaign is an example of reinvigorating a long-standing, strategic partnership by using ongoing research to tap into current trends, to maintain brand relevancy.

After one month, the campaign resulted in 73 million votes to introduce Angela into the King of Glory game as its first female avatar. The post-campaign social media messages, celebrating the game’s first female representation, enhanced Pizza Hut’s brand positioning and relevancy among younger audiences.

As a result of the campaign, Pizza Hut earned nearly 400 million media impressions across social media, helping to lift sales 120% YOY amongst younger restaurant-goers.