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Pizza Hut: Just think of us as 'The Hut'

Pizza Hut signage.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Marketing is more important than ever in a down economy. We ran across the latest example in the trade magazine Brandweek this morning. Pizza Hut seems to think that's just one word too many to be really catchy. The Hut, they say, would be better. Marketplace's Rico Gagliano reports it's yet another fast-food chain trying to change with the times.


RICO GAGLIANO: Outside a Pizza Hut in downtown L.A. this morning, I asked passerby a pretty obvious question.

GAGLIANO: So when you think of Pizza Hut, what food item comes to mind?

GUY 1: I think of very spongy pizza, barely edible.

GUY 2: Um, greasy pizza.

Setting aside these guys' unsolicited editorializing, you'd think this would make the folks running Pizza Hut happy, because at least customers know what they sell, right? But problem is, more and more consumers aren't buying pizza from chains. Like this guy.

GUY 3: Yeah, I actually bought a frozen French bread with pizza toppings on top of it last night.

Marissa Gluck is a marketing consultant with Radar Research.

MARISSA GLUCK: Pizza Hut is suffering in the recession, people are opting for frozen pizzas.

And those frozen grocery-store pizzas are generally tastier than the cheesy cardboard you may remember from youth. So with "The Hut" campaign, says Gluck, Pizza Hut is trying to step away from pizza, and remind folks they sell other stuff. Like pasta. They're not the first fast-food chain to try this.

GLUCK: A few years ago you had Kentucky Fried Chicken changing to "KFC" so that people wouldn't associate KFC necessarily with fried chicken.

But Gluck doesn't think it fooled anyone. And she says messing with your brand name can potentially do more harm than good.

GLUCK: We've already seen that it's confused marketing experts, who have written about "Pizza Hut's changing their name." They say they're not changing their name. I can only imagine how confusing it would be for consumers.

From the downtown L.A. chicken-wing hut, I mean pasta hut, I mean, hut which sells food.

I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano co-hosts and co-produces Marketplace’s “Small Talk” segment.
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I burst out laughing when I heard about Pizza Hut shortening their name to the Hut. Reminds me of when Howard Johnson's shortened their name to HoJo. That one always struck me as the sort of place those seeking a location for unsavory liaisons might choose.
Bad move Pizza Hut.

Regardless of their name, their pizza is doughy, greasy and disgusting. Buy from the local pizza shop. You will almost always be much happier with the product.

Marissa's statement above seems to imply that people are only opting for frozen pizza as an alternative to franchise pizza. What about mom-and-pop pizzerias? Or do those only have a major presence here in Jersey? (I have a feeling I just perpetuated a cliché.)

Marissa's statement above seems to imply that people are only opting for frozen pizza as an alternative to franchise pizza. What about mom-and-pop pizzerias? Or do those only have a major presence here in Jersey? (I have a feeling I just perpetuated a cliché.)

Thanks for the perspective and story.

We are definitely not changing our name. We are proud of our pizza heritage and are and always will be Pizza Hut. The "Hut" is really a marketing term that we use on a limited basis.

Christopher Fuller, Pizza Hut Spokesman

Huh? Reuters and several others, including Pizza Hut's own website, report that they reversed this decision two or three days ago. You're a little behind, aren't you??

Right. Another example of people just too smart for themselves. A few years ago the University of Pennsylvania decided that it needed a "snappier" name for marketing to prospective students and called itself "Penn."

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