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Pizza Hut brand boss: ‘Now is not the time to pull back on media spend’

D'Cruz stated her belief that brands should be realigning their marketing plans in light of Covid-19

Big-name brands such as Coca-Cola and John Lewis have been making significant cuts to their UK marketing budgets as part of their coronavirus cost-cutting plans, but for Pizza Hut’s marketing director now is not the time to pull back on brand investments.

With around 400 branches in the UK and a delivery proposition at the core of it business, Pizza Hut former UK chief marketing officer turned chief brand officer for APAC, Beverley D'Cruz, has been fielding calls from franchisees to ask if they should be halting media spend.

Her response: “in times like these, people are only going to be consuming more digital media, so these are not times to pull back – we should be investing.”

Speaking as part of The Drum’s ongoing Digital Transformation Festival, D'Cruz stated her belief that brands should be realigning their marketing plans to highlight the role they can play in helping people through the current pandemic.

“We want to invest responsibly. We know what communities are going through so we need to demonstrate empathy. We’re in a space of being able to help. Our stores are situated around hospitals, health facilities and schools. So we’re looking at media strategies that will help us grow and leverage our brand, but also that will allow us to give back to the community.”

Since D'Cruz spoke to The Drum, Pizza Hut’s Restaurant Arm has managed to keep close to 50 of its kitchens open to provide delivery services to local communities at the request of authorities.

Managers and team members have been showing up voluntarily to assist with the effort, while key suppliers and business partners have also played a part. Elsewhere, delivery franchises have been showing their support by delivering pizzas to hospital staff free of charge. The chain is also offering 50% off all takeaway food to NHS workers.

'A shift in strategy'

With the sporting calendar now bare for the majority of the summer, D'Cruz also hinted at what other categories might make it on to Pizza Hut’s media plan over the next few months.

“We’ve had to look at a shift in strategy. We were planning a big campaign for Euro 2020 in the summer – but of course that’s not happening anymore. Movies and gaming are a big part of Pizza Hut’s media strategy because that’s where our consumers are.

“So we’re stepping up the game more in those spaces because consumers are going to be looking at more media.”

On how Pizza Hut is using data to tailor its messaging in a time of Coronavirus, D'Cruz revealed that Google searches had seen a spike in questions about the safety of delivery and takeaway food. In light of this it was considering how best to use marketing to alleviate these worries.

“People have a lot of anxiety and we can see through the data that it’s top of mind for them. We’re able to look at people’s behaviour and respond. Today it’s all about reassurance, giving customers confidence that they can get safe food. In a month though, that will change – people will be getting bored and they will have cabin fever, and that will require a different set of marketing skills.”

You can watch the full interview here and view more content from The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival here.

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