To kick off the work week Twitter was all abuzz with news that Pizza Hut wanted to hire a summer intern to man their Twitter account. The story even made the New York Times. I really don't know what made me roll my eyes more, that the NY Times gave this obvious PR Stunt credibility or that the Vice President for marketing communications at Pizza Hut (Bob Kraut), actually stated "The successful applicant will speak fluent OMG and LOL and correctly use the terms DM (direct message), RT (retweet) and # (hashtag)." to make himself sound cool and hip.
For the record, if you tweeted DM it wouldn't work on Twitter, it's "D" for direct message, let alone they left out knowing how to reply to twitterers with the "@" symbol.
Tom Martin, who writes at Positive Disruption asked if this "Twiternship" was Ethical, its a very interesting look at the situation and a very thought provoking piece if you into marketing, PR and social media. It kept me coming back to even more questions, beyond asking if this was just a PR Stunt to draw people away from the Domino's video fiasco.
You Seriously Want an Intern Handling Your International Brand on an International Stage?
Pizza Hut is not just a national brand, but an international one. Twitter isn't just a U.S. based tool, its a world wide tool. Now, stop and think. Would any company be crazy enough to let an intern who doesn't know the inner workings of their global brand (carefully crafted messaging they've spent millions on) plan, prepare, run and speak at an international press event that launches your brand on an international stage?
No. That would be suicidal.
What Mr. Kraut fails to realize in his attempt to be cool and hip, is that while a college intern may know "OMG" and "LOL", they really know nothing about Pizza Hut and how to effectively handle a marketing strategy in the real world, in real time. Just because they know how to text on their phone does not mean they should be the face of your international brand on an international platform.
Is This a Response to Domino's Video Fiasco?
What really kept popping into my mind was the timing of this all. Domino's sure was getting a hell of a lot of press for those videos and their response to it from the corporate office. PizzaHut's timing on this was just really too coincidental. Domino's was on the tip of every tongue because of these videos. The videos even spawned hilarious responses. Domino's had buzz, no matter how bad it was, it was buzz.
Pizza Hut had nothing until Monday, April 20th, with this Twitternship announcement. Then things with them were all buzzing. "Wow a summer internship to Twitter!"
The Domino's videos were posted right before Monday April 13th, 2009. The videos were discovered and posted first by Good As You. This site has some good documentation of what happened with this fiasco, too. On Monday April 13th, is when Pizza Hut first started to Tweet. Coincidence? Maybe, but I find it really suspicious.
So lets take a look at Pizza Hut and their Twitter use. Shall I say non-twitter use.They have someone twittering right now, who does seem to understand marketing, perhaps a little too well. The messages are all about the promotions that Pizza Hut is involved with currently. From their involvement with the new Terminator 4 movie due out in May, to John Lithgow's Two Big Dogs and now their "Twitternship". This is more of a broadcast channel or electronic billboard they custom design with each marketing tweet.
Then look at who they are following. 14 Twitter accounts are being followed by the Pizza Hut Twitter account and most of them are corporate entities including Pizza Hut's
parent lifetime partner company PepsiCo's Pepsi* (please see author correction below). There's no real communication going on with this account with the 1200+ followers they have right now. Accept for 2 replies to tweets asking about the internship, there's no "conversation" like companies like Zappos, Whole Foods or Southwest are having. What about joining in on a conversation about Pizza, Pasta or healthy food? What about asking people about their last experience at Pizza Hut? Nope.... not there. Call them clueless when it comes to Twitter.
Would Pizza Hut Do Better in Other Social Media Circles?
I also keep coming back to the thought, is Twitter the right place for Pizza Hut to focus their Social Media efforts? Food is a very visual experience and it really affects your senses, particularly smell, taste and sight. Twitter lacks the visual aspect, you just have text on a screen. There's only so much you can do with 140 characters to explain your experience with a really good meal.
Videos & photos could be a much more successful outlet for Pizza Hut. "Design Your Own Pizza Hut Pizza Contest" where fans of Pizza Hut could submit their videos of their own specialty pizza's to have to have a chance to have that pizza named after them and on every Pizza Hut menu across the globe - would likely be a whole lot more successful than a Twittern tweeting "OMG I just ate a whole deep dish pizza hut pizza!"
Just Like Partner Company Pepsi, Are They Confused By Where Their Audience is Really Hanging Out?
Just because it seems like everyone is hanging out on Twitter doesn't necessarily mean that's the reality, even if Oprah is here now. Just because most average Americans like pizza, doesn't mean they are fans of Pizza Hut and are on Twitter. When you think of it, most average Americans are rabid fans of those small pizza joints. Just stop anyone on the street in a city and ask them where the best pizza is, likely the words won't be Pizza Hut, Dominos or Poppa John's. That's not to say Pizza Hut doesn't have fans or a core audience, they do, I just have a hard time thinking they are hanging out on Twitter.
Pepsico, Pizza Hut's
parent lifetime partner company*, might have a little influence here. Wanting to push its brands into social media because its the newest greatest thing in marketing. Pepsico really is confused by where its audience hangs out, it launched a "social media" campaign wherein they had 25 top bloggers get a first glance at their new branding. Problem is, a lot of these bloggers weren't Pepsi drinkers! To quote one of the Pepsi 25, Mack Collier "(problem is, I'm a Dr Pepper lover). Aside from the fact that I'm not that fond of Pepsi," As Beth Harte points out, "Pepsi has fans clubs, one Google search and I located 2 online, why didn't Pepsi engage these evangelists in their social media efforts if they wanted buzz?"
At the end of the day though, I don't know what Pizza Hut's or Pepsico's internal workings are. Although if I were on the inside I'd surely be scratching my head at this latest venture into Social Media. To me it seems like old marketing ways trying to be pushed into the new media way of marketing. I just don't see that Pizza Hut fully understand Social Media, quite the contrary to the individual Chicago Domino's owner who does understand it.
*author's note: Pepsico use to own Pizza Hut but spun them off with Taco Bell, KFC and now A&W and Long John Silver's to form Yum Brands!, however the two companies are still very much intwined and have a lifetime contract with one another.