"We must be absolutely vulnerable with consumers": Pizza Hut's Anup Jain

Anup Jain, marketing director, Pizza Hut talks about the importance of social media and how its opened up the marketing vista for them in a way that was never possible before.

Nov 15, 2010 12:21:00 PM | Article | Arati Rao

The risk of negative comments on Facebook is a risk worth taking, according to Anup Jain, director - marketing, Yum! Restaurants India - Pizza Hut in this interview with Campaign India. Jain discusses the role of traditional media and new marketing innovations that the fast food brand has launched recently.  

CI: How important is social media for Pizza Hut and tell us about the digital pitch you held recently.

AJ: Pizza Hut is very big on social media for the future, as an alternative way to stay in touch with our fans and regular users. Social media has opened up a new vista for us in marketing which didn't exist before. And we're very, very big on it.

Through this medium, we can reach out to a lot of people  who are young, in between the ages of 15 and 34 years (we already have about 12 million people in India on Facebook). They're young enough, they're having the purchasing power for the first time, they're taking their own decisions on eating out. We want to be the first brand where they experience the concept of Western affordable casual dining.

In addition to our media agency that handles the breadth of media advertising, and our creative agency which is typically handling traditional media like TV, print, outdoor and radio, in the digital space it requires a totally different branding - you're accessible all the time, the medium is new, it's very young, there isn't measurement data, it's really about what you do in the medium which is very different from what you do in the other mediums which are very passive. Digital is a very interactive medium where you have a conversation with consumers and engage with them, and get immediate feedback. You have a photo, a face and profile [to the consumer]. We invited a digital pitch in September and October for 8-9 agencies and Hungama was the best among all of them.

CI: How would you deal with negative feedback on social media?

AJ: If consumers have to trust the brand, they have to interact with it almost like a human being. I think if all brands over a period of time don't get onto new media, they will actually become redundant. So we can't be shy, we must be absolutely vulnerable with our consumers, sometimes when we have to apologise for bad experiences, we're doing that for our fans, for our betterment and to provide a better experience.

CI: Does traditional media still play a role? 

AJ: Traditional media is always going to play a role. To inform people in the shortest period of time at large, TV is definitely more attractive as a medium. Social media is a more targetted way to reach out to users. I would value a mix of TV and digital much more than I would value TV, print and outdoor.

CI: Tell us about the launch of gift cards.

AJ: Gift cards is a 90-billion dollar industry in the US. It's going be here in a big way in India in a very short period of time. It's essentially a plastic card with a magnetic strip at the back, a lot like your debit and credit card, you can load it with money and gift it to somebody. The way we're positioning this is you don't have to wait for birthdays and special occasions, but this is something that can be given to anybody at any point of time. We're one of the few brands in India to start off with it and we'll be doing so in Mumbai and Bangalore, which are our key cities ; we'll expand it soon. We're also planning to make it available online on Rediff shopping and Indiatimes shopping.

It's also a core marketing barter tool for us. So, for example, we could have a core marketing arrangement with a brand like Reebok, where instead of them giving Rs 500 off on a purchase of Rs 5000, they can actually give a Pizza Hut gift card.

Third, companies can use this as a motivation tool for employees, for rewards. We have also announced a reward programme, where you can actually get 3 percent back as reward points, when you redeem your gift card.     

In the US or UK, you can find gift cards hanging on shelves when you step out of a supermarket. In third party retail, this can be a great product.