Pizza Hut and Long Term Branding – Accidental Brand Building Assets

Many organizations look at branding as a short term endeavor – build the brand, make the sales and end the story.

According to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, 34% of new businesses survive more than  10 years. For those businesses that manage to survive, they may go through multiple branding efforts to build their story and promote their value proposition. As we begin a new year, it is interesting to look at some of the more curious branding efforts of the past and to see ‘where are they now.’

You Can Tell! Bank Was Once a Pizza Hut!

I borrowed the caption to this image from the Onion in a humor story run several years ago which made light of the widespread distribution of former Pizza Hut locations that were enjoying lives as other types of businesses. Associating Pizza Hut locations with banking or other types of business locations is unusual and provided an ironic look at how some of the buildings were being used. Now, this story is enjoying a little more serious look.

Atlantic Cities recently ran an interesting piece on the Second Lives of Pizza Huts in which it outlines the long lives of some former Pizza Hut establishments. For those of us old enough to remember getting pizza and beer in these buildings, the consistent design and widespread distribution of these former restaurants consistently identify these as Pizza Hut locations. The better-placed locations are in high traffic, high visibility areas.  Even though Pizza Hut modified its location strategy many years ago and divested itself of these buildings, the fact that the company originally used its building design as part of its branding strategy may have – even if accidentally – created a long term branding asset that the company no longer has to maintain.

Banks and even other fast-food operators that have taken over these buildings are somewhat helping to promote the original Pizza Hut name. Even younger consumers know from their parents that these were once places to get an all-you-can-eat family food fill-up.

Branding Strategies:
What does this mean for current branding strategies? As we kick off a new year, it is interesting to consider areas that we may not have previously understood as part of the branding message.. Below are just a couple areas in which the brand can be managed and created to build a long term consumer image.

Unique Building Style and Design
As the Pizza Hut example shows, even when the organization abandons part of its location strategy, a design that lives beyond the life of the branding effort can have long term value.

Messaging Through Music
As we just wrapped up another holiday shopping season, a few major brands were noticed for their absence on the airwaves. The music and silly jingles that went with the (Ho, Ho, Ho, the Great Big ‘O.’) advertisements in years past created a brand image that lived well past the time the advertisements ceased. In fact, just a few advertisements run this holiday season seemed to re-ignite the brand and value from holiday season’s previous to this.

Humor and Warmth
The art of making people laugh and associating that good feeling with a particular brand has long been a powerful brand building objective. Some of these efforts have a very long life-span. The annual Coke polar bear advertisements are cute and have even created a merchandising opportunity for the soft drink company. Humor, ‘cuteness’ and warm, cuddly feelings are trust and brand building objectives that are also associated with the holiday season itself.  This association is enough to drive additional holiday sales.

With so much attention to short term sales and revenue objectives, a little attention to creating a long term brand building can have impact well beyond the term of its original deployment.

Matthew Stone is a Denver SEO Consultant and works in Denver Public Relations.





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