'We're delivering iconic pizzas and blockbuster moments': Pizza Hut talks digital

Tyrone Stewart

Last year, Pizza Hut decided to launch its first global campaign in 20 years to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its iconic Pan pizza, delivering a digital-first campaign in 55 markets around the world and declaring October ‘Global Pizza Month’.

This campaign also saw Pizza Hut use its ‘now that’s delivery’ brand story globally for first time, after seeing how successful the message was in the UK alongside the restaurant chain’s ambassador character, Parker.

“One of our largest businesses is in the UK, and we have been working with them over the last two years to better develop our brand story, which is ‘now that’s delivering’, and better helping our customers understand that ‘now that’s delivering’ goes beyond the functional aspect of delivering. We’re delivering iconic pizzas. We’re delivering blockbuster moments in culture,” says Courtney Vogel, Global Head of Brand and Digital Marketing at Pizza Hut International.

“We realised we’re at a pivotal time in the brand that made sense for ‘now that’s delivering’ to become our true global brand story, especially given the shift in general consumer habits to the digital, online delivery space.”

The global campaign was fronted by Parker, a familiar character to people in the UK who delivers the brand’s message with humour and fun. He, Parker J Patterson, has been the face of Pizza Hut’s campaigns since 2019.

Vogel describes Parker’s ambassador-type character as being “edgy, clever, and funny, but not necessarily really goofy”.

“We felt this ambassador character could help us ensure that we are a true playful challenger and really bring that ‘now that’s delivering’ story to life for us,” she adds. “Ever since the UK team introduced that character, that ambassador has played a big role in the brand on a global scale. And we think it will continue to play a big role for us for many years to come.”

In order to bring ‘now that’s delivering’ and Parker’s ambassador-type character to the rest of the world, Pizza Hut International turned to Iris Worldwide, an international creative innovation network headquartered in London, England.

Iris first began working with Pizza Hut UK in 2018, helping the UK arm of the restaurant chain to reposition and redefine its brand. This partnership led to the development of ‘now that’s delivering’ and Parker’s character.

Pizza Hut’s global brand identified the success that Iris had with its UK division and enlisted the help of the agency to extend ‘now that’s delivering’ to the rest of the world for the 40th anniversary of Pan campaign, which delivered the message that Pan pizzas are more satisfying than anything else.

“Iris understands our brand DNA now. They’re an extension of our team,” says Vogel. “We feel really confident working with them on all things Parker and all things Pizza Hut International, so we’ll continue that partnership going forward.

“We knew when that idea came about that [Pan pizza is more satisfying than anything else], it was something we could easily scale and a Pizza Hut consumer in India could understand as easily as a Pizza Hut consumer in Canada.”

Beyond Pizza Hut’s digital-first 40th anniversary campaign, which also featured a TikTok challenge to engage Millennial and Gen Z consumers, the brand has had to ensure that its shifted toward focusing on digital right across its business – something many businesses have had to do during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A big part of Pizza Hut’s digital shift, beyond its global marketing campaigns, has been about improving the experience of its customers.

“One of the things that we’ve focused on it that area is making it easy for our consumers to get a hot pizza anywhere, any time,” says Vogel. “Many consumers in some our markets are more used to a dine-in Pizza Hut experience but we had to make kerbside takeaway or contactless delivery key components of our user experience.

“The first thing we did was make sure that our eCommerce platforms were setup to do contactless delivery – and that consumers had the choice for contactless delivery – and then made sure that we’re building the appropriate technology to make kerbside takeaway as easy as possible for the consumer too,” she continues

“So, it wasn’t just in the brand messaging, it was really in the customer experience and all the steps to make your purchase and order as seamless as possible.”

Pizza Hut says it will continue to build on its digital presence and look to continue engaging different audiences on new platforms, such as eSports and TikTok, while making sure that the brand is “front and centre” to the customer on traditional media.

A key aspect of those future digital ambitions is delivering the best possible app for consumers to keep them coming back for more.

“As you come onto our website or app, we know that there’s a lot of value in making sure that we know who you are, and then we can offer you the best recommendations based on what you’ve purchased in the past. So, we want to make things like that very simple for the consumer,” says Vogel.

Away from the digital space, Pizza Hut is going to focusing a lot of its efforts into sustainability, equity, and inclusion in 2021.

A highlight of these plans has been its recent partnership with Beyond Meat in the UK and the US to ensure that plant-based proteins make up part of the restaurant’s menu.

“We’re offering the consumer choice, whether you are a meat eater, a flexitarian, or a vegetarian. So, I would say that one of our huge initiatives is in that plant-based space and expanding our partnership with Beyond across many markets in the world,” concludes Vogel.