From quick service to the big screen
Ask anyone at Pizza Hut, and he or she may say one of the brand’s most recent campaigns has been a long time coming. Playing off a relationship with the cult-classic comic book and TV series “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (tmnt)—a marketing relationship that dates back to the 1980s—Pizza Hut teamed up with Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello once again to celebrate the August release of the new TMNT film and the return of Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites.
“There are few partnerships that come across our desk that are such no-brainers as the one with the TMNT movie,” says Doug Terfehr, Pizza Hut’s director of public relations. “There’s such an energy between the history we have with the franchise and then the connection that can quickly be drawn by doing something with them again, because the Turtles are powered by pizza.”
While the campaign naturally appeals to those consumers who grew up loving the series, Terfehr says, today’s generation of kids is equally as passionate about the returning characters, creating a potential audience that, while expansive, shares a common bond in their excitement over the beloved franchise, its big-screen reincarnation, and Pizza Hut.
Digital marketing was key to the two-month TMNT campaign, with the website undergoing a makeover to feature the turtles, the film, and products created specifically for the popular franchise—products like the Cheesy Bites and a set of four custom pizzas inspired by the personality of each Ninja Turtle. In exchange for their loyalty and business, Pizza Hut fans gained access to exclusive TMNT material, such as early movie trailer releases.
In-store signage and point-of-purchase materials were another heavy supporter for Pizza Hut’s TMNT partnership, and included augmented-reality pizza box toppers that let consumers scan the packaging with their phones to see TMNT trailers, Pizza Hut commercials, and more. “It was very interactive and fun, and just something that hadn’t been experienced much in the pizza category,” Terfehr says.
In perhaps its most out-of-the-box marketing push, Pizza Hut hit the popular Comic-Con convention in San Diego in July, resurrecting the Turtles’ famous Pizza Thrower to a great deal of fan fare.
“We partnered with Paramount to create a life-sized, fully functional, 12-foot-tall, 16-foot-long Pizza Thrower complete with a cannon in which you could fire pizzas,” Terfehr says. “It was an incredible hit and it was an unbelievable project to build this one-of-a-kind thing, and then to see the consumer reaction. … People just thought it was one of the coolest thing they had ever seen.”
To date, Terfehr says, the TMNT campaign has led to the most successful business window for Pizza Hut in 2014. And the best part about the campaign for the pizza chain is that the benefits will just keep coming, thanks to the fact that Pizza Hut products and boxes are used within a TMNT game for Xbox Kinect, as well as in the film itself.
“All of [the turtles’] sofas and chairs were made out of real Pizza Hut pizza boxes,” Terfehr says. “You’ll see that very prominently in the movie.”
Beyond the average ad
Chipotle’s Food With Integrity mission certainly isn’t new. But the way the brand has communicated its sustainable and local approach to food sourcing, on the other hand, has taken an innovative turn over the past several years.
Aiming to capture the hearts, minds, and dollars of its Millennial customers, Chipotle released a short film during the 2012 Grammy Awards called “Back to the Start,” an animated ad that touched on both the dangers of factory farming and the importance of sustainable agriculture. A year later, Chipotle developed “The Scarecrow,” a 3-minute animated film that tells the story of a scarecrow’s fight against the processed foods common in the industry.
This time around, though, Chipotle didn’t stop with an Emmy- and Cannes Lions award–winning film; rather, it created an interactive game of the same name, available for free download on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. In the game, consumers are tasked with everything from freeing confined animals and transporting them to open pastures to planting new crops and delivering farm-fresh food to customers at a local town square. In exchange for completing various levels, customers were given food rewards redeemable at Chipotle locations across the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.
“The idea of [the film and game] isn’t necessarily about driving trial or traffic,” says spokesman Chris Arnold. “Certainly we see some of that as a product of them, but the aim is to make people more curious about food and where it comes from.”
Judging by the results of the campaign—the film has been watched more than 13 million times to date, with 5 million views in its first week, while the game has been downloaded more than 650,000 times—many consumers are receiving that message loud and clear.
“All of these things have worked really very well and, in many ways, beyond our expectations,” Arnold says, adding that the film’s success has encouraged the brand to continue exploring these content marketing avenues. “At the heart of these kinds of content programs, you have to have a really compelling story, and we think ‘The Scarecrow’ certainly had that.”
The fact that it stirred up an enormous amount of organic buzz from consumers with help only from digital and social marketing—and little direct Chipotle marketing in the film or game—was another sign that the campaign was a huge hit. “They were stepping up and stepping out,” Powers Agency’s Powers says, “and that gets noticed.”
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