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What Pizza Hut’s Branding Strategy Can Learn From Slim Jim

Erin Jordan

After announcing what may have been one of the most ill-thought out and selfish marketing acts yet, Pizza Hut decided to change its strategy this week. Initially they had planned to offer free pizzas for life to the town hall debate attendee who asked President Obama and Governor Romney, “sausage or pepperoni?”  After much backlash, the company said it would direct its “Sausage or Pepperoni” contest to all voting consumers, rather than to those at the Presidential Debate.

Also this week, Slim Jim released a video mocking Felix Baumgartner’s record breaking free fall with Slim Jim’s world’s shortest free fall featuring Conan O’Brien.

What these two stunts have in common is they both take hold of a major historical event to market their product. What they don’t have in common is the strategy, timing and consideration of their audience.

In Pizza Hut’s case the distasteful nature in which they chose to advertise their pies in a something as big as the election for America’s president and take time away from viewers and the debate made people cringe and positioned the brand leadership as disrespectful. Though the brand initially commented that this question would be a good way to introduce fun into the election, it was not appreciated as so.

In Slim Jim’s case, the marketing poked light fun at a major historical event, but did not intrude or disrespect the event. Instead, they respected the free fall and put out a lighthearted video after the event that is along the lines of their target audience. Because the short fall happened afterwards, they didn’t directly inundate the event or try to use the event, they created their own.

Because Slim Jim was respectful in their strategy and chose not to hog the spotlight for an event that was not their own, they showed that you can use a major event to market in a tasteful way (pun intended).