Namah Chawla

“Dining in is our strength, but home delivery is critical now”: Pizza Hut CMO

Pizza Hut's new ad marks a pivot towards home delivery, something pizza lovers associate with rival brand Domino's. CMO Neha speaks to afaqs!.

How the world eats has changed dramatically. User-friendly apps, technology-enabled networks, along with evolving consumer expectations, have made food delivery an independent category.

COVID-induced lockdowns and social distancing norms have provided a considerable boost to the food delivery space. It has now become the hurting restaurant industry’s lifeline.

Pizza Hut, the American multinational quick service restaurant (QSR) chain, has been in India for over 25 years. It is perceived more as a dine-in brand that the consumers have made a part of their celebrations over the years.

However, to stay relevant in the current times, Pizza Hut recently rolled out a campaign, titled ‘Dil Khol Ke Delivering’ with an attempt to pivot to a brand that is not just known for its dine-in experience but also delivering service.

Speaking to afaqs! over a Zoom call, Neha, chief marketing officer, Pizza Hut India, reveals that the campaign is much more than just a reference to the act of delivering.

“It (the idea) is to indicate that anything that the brand does, it does ‘Dil Khol Ke’. Pizza Hut provides taste, quality, innovation, pocket satisfying value, as well as ease of access.”

Neha points out that Pizza Hut’s been working on creating this platform for about 6-8 months now. But given what happened due to the second COVID wave earlier this year, the brand felt that it was not the right time to come out with this campaign then.

“Therefore, we waited until the festive season, when people are in a buoyant mood, to talk about a platform like this.”

Pizza Hut opened its first outlet in India 1996 in Bengaluru. It became the first international pizza chain to enter India and currently has over 500 operational outlets in all the major cities.

The campaign talks about what the brand offers to its consumers, in terms of taste, quality, value for money, loyalty, among other things. “This is a platform and not just a one-time campaign or act. Over the next 3-6 months, the consumers will notice everything coming from the house of Pizza Hut, living up to the ‘Dil Khol Ke’ standards,” mentions Neha.

For the campaign, Pizza Hut onboarded actress-comedian Anuradha Menon, a.k.a. Lola Kutty, to convey the brand’s message in a cheeky and confident manner.

Neha informs that when it comes to a brand ambassador, Pizza Hut wasn’t looking for any specifics, in terms of gender or demographics. It was looking for a character who carries a confident tone that the brand wants to embark on.

As a part of this campaign, the brand has also rolled out an ad film, titled ‘Momo Mia’, for its latest offering Momo Pizza, which according to the brand is a fusion of two beloved dishes and offers the best of both worlds.

The idea behind this dish was that Indians have been craving street food because of the pandemic. So, Pizza Hut wanted to come up with a combination that would entice consumers’ taste buds.

“Dining in is our strength, but home delivery is critical now”: Pizza Hut CMO

Neha states that the marketing insight behind the product was “to get two superstars together for a blockbuster.” It started from that and was developed by the agency Creativeland Asia in a creative idea of ‘why pick when you can epic?’

Early last year, when COVID forced many brands to rethink their media strategies, Pizza Hut decided to shift to digital completely. Neha says, “We have been advertising, with digital being our mainstay. About 90 plus per cent of our spends have gone to digital media in the last two years. We do use digital audio and print tactically, but our mainstay continues to be digital media.”

Due to the pandemic, Pizza Hut saw a spike in the demand for in-home deliveries and about 60 per cent of its annual sales came from contactless deliveries. When asked whether the brand focuses on aggregator apps like Swiggy and Zomato or its own delivery channel, Neha mentions that both are critical for its business growth.

Due to the pandemic, Pizza Hut saw a spike in the demand for in-home deliveries and about 60 per cent of its annual sales came from contactless deliveries.

“Aggregator apps are our partners and we will continue to be where the consumers are, as many of them access brands via aggregators. But, at the same time, we will continue to ramp up our own channels and reward consumers much more than we do on aggregators.”

Pizza Hut’s (own) delivery platform tends to outperform food aggregators on important days like festivals. Pizza Hut app’s rating on Android and Apple iOS play stores is currently more than 4.5.

“Aggregator apps are our partners but the brand rewards its consumers more when they engage with our own channels"
Neha, CMO, Pizza Hut

The brand is committed to sustainable growth, and uses only eco-friendly and recyclable packaging material. It plans to launch a new app early next year to ensure that the consumers have a superior experience on its platform.

Pizza Hut faces competition from not just big players like Domino’s, Chicago Pizza, La Pino’z, etc., but also small localised outlets that enjoy a loyal consumer base.

Speaking about competition from smaller unbranded outlets, Neha says, “I think the unbranded segment does have to bear the brunt, especially in today’s scenario, because they are not necessarily being perceived as hygienic or trustworthy.”

Neha states that due to its 25 years of experience in India, Pizza Hut has multiple strengths. “We are not trying to completely change ourselves. We want to build on our strengths and take the brand forward. Our strength is dine-in and the memories that we have created for our customers. Very few brands can compete with that. Delivery is critical, and it is important to continue to stay innovative and ahead of the curve on values. Those are the aspects that the brand is building on,” she signs off.