Pizza Hut Plan to Change Name to "The Hut" Meets With Ridicule

Last Updated Jun 20, 2009 2:32 PM EDT

Pizza Hut has created an unneccessary publicity backlash by tentatively changing its brand to the "The Hut." Do a search for Pizza Hut in Google News and you'll see that the move was met with gales of laughter from the media and scorn from the public.

The company was forced to put out a press release saying that Pizza Hut was not changing its name, even though it, er, was actually changing its name. Here's the release in its confusing entirety:
"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," said Brian Niccol, CMO, Pizza Hut, Inc.

"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."
Tribble called it "the worst Advertising move the world has seen since Enfatico." To add to the confusion, some locations in the U.K. were changed to "Pasta Hut." Yum! Brands CEO David Novak said to Brandweek:
... 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
Here's the problem with Pizza Hut's strategy, and everyone except Pizza Hut can see it: Pizza Hut's entire brand relies on the fact that it does pizzas. This is the company that once went to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to prove its pizzas were best.

By abandoning the word "Pizza," it runs the risk of turning the rest of its brand into a question mark. What, exactly, should we expect from "The Hut"? It's not a trivial question. No pizza chain dominates the category -- most pizzas are served by local mom and pop restaurants. So Pizza Hut runs the risk of losing share of mind to them.

Second, Novak is running a bigger risk than he thinks. Children and immigrants are not automatically familiar with Pizza Hut the way adults are. They have to learn about it the same way they learn everything else. A generation of people who don't strongly connect The Hut with pizza may arise faster than Novak thinks.

Meanwhile, the folks at Papa John's -- The Hut's hated rival -- are laughing into their dough.

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