Pizza Hut is stepping up its game with high-top sneakers that allow their wearers to order pizza with a push of a button and rolling out a major discount offer for people who cannot get the special shoes.
The high-tops, which of course are being called Pie Tops, are the latest marketing stunt from a major pizza chain hungry for a bigger piece of America's pizza-ordering pie.
Pizza Hut could use the attention after another weak quarter at the Yum Brands chain. While Pizza Hut remains the biggest pizza chain, its fourth-quarter sales at longstanding U.S. locations fell 4%. Meanwhile, rival Domino's fourth-quarter U.S. same-store sales soared 12.2% and Papa John's notched a 3.8% gain.
Last month, Greg Creed, the CEO of parent company Yum Brands, called Pizza Hut's results "not acceptable." Yum has hired outside experts to help it work on a turnaround at Pizza Hut, with plans that include looking at ways to improve Pizza Hut's digital experience and delivery times. The latest effort follows last year's creative agency switch, when Droga5 replaced Deutsch.
Droga5 led the charge on the plan for the shoes, which suggest just how easy ordering pizza can be and serve as a reminder of the chain's status as the official pizza partner of the NCAA and its March Madness college basketball tournament. Only 64 pairs of the Bluetooth-enabled Pie Tops will be handed out for now, a nod to the number of teams in the main competition.
Los Angeles-based Dominic Chambrone, known as the Shoe Surgeon, created the shoes.
"The bulk of these will go to influencers (and) media, just to create buzz and talk value and we've reserved some for the opportunity for a select few Pizza Hut super fans to receive a pair of these custom Pie Top high-top tennis shoes," said David Daniels, Pizza Hut's VP of advertising and media.
But the idea of pizza shoes alone won't get people to buy. Throughout March and into April, Pizza Hut is offering a large, two-topping pizza for $7.99 to those who place online orders. Normally, a two-topping pizza costs around $12.99.
The online-only nature of the offer shows where pizza companies are seeing the most traction. Pizza Hut now receives about half of its orders online, with more coming from mobile devices than desktop computers, Mr. Daniels said.
While the Pie Tops are not for everyone, they will appear in a major marketing push. Basketball star-turned-analyst Grant Hill appears in a new TV spot set to air beginning March 3 and throughout the upcoming NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. The shoe concept will also be featured in NCAA March Madness integrations through the company's deal with Turner.
"We're planning to feature the pie tops with on-air talent," Mr. Daniels said, but it has not been announced yet which people will wear and interact with the shoes during the broadcasts.
Pizza Hut has been rolling out a series of ordering capabilities in recent months. In December, it introduced a skill for Amazon's Alexa that lets people order with a phrase on devices such as the Amazon Echo
Still, Domino's is considered the leader in online ordering capability, and has been marketing its finesse for years in work from CP&B. Domino's allows patrons to order in a variety of ways including via emoji in Twitter or a text message, Amazon Echo, Facebook Messenger and Google Home.
Droga5 is the creative agency and Blue 449 is Pizza Hut's media agency.