First, The New York Times trots out an age-old story. "Marketers" don't think they can sell as much to an older demographic as to young people. But, hey, it's a recession and that's where the money is so AARP and CBS here we come!
The problem is that smart, strategic marketers market to the consumers who are the right target market for their product or service. That might or might not be 50+ consumers. When I worked on Jell-O brand products, we spoke to kids, parents and grandparents but targeted the right product to the right group with an appropriate message. For AARP magazine we featured fat-free pudding sugar-free gelatin cups for boomers who wanted lower calorie snacks that fit their still active lifestyle. We didn't send this message because someone age 55 has more money in their wallets than someone age 5 or because kids don't love Jell-O products and parents no longer treat their kids to colorful, wiggly gelatin treats.
It's no secret that 18-49 is the prized demographic sweet spot just because consumers in that age range are assumed to be more free spending and less brand loyal. And if your marketing somehow actually starts and ends there you deserve to fail. (Though this may be a case of "there are no new stories under the sun" stale reporting rather than actual fact - I certainly not aware of any company that is that limited in their marketing thinking.) But a big part of the problem is mentioned in the article, as well. Too many marketers forget brand management 101: You are not your target market.
“When you’re a 27-year-old media supervisor or a 32-year-old brand manager, what do you think the world looks like?” Jerry Sheveshewsky, chief executive at Grandparents.com. “You think it looks like you.”
Smart marketers understand consumer psychographics as well as demographics and market accordingly and respectfully. That's how you build a brand and grow a business.
Second, Pizza Hut appears, belatedly, to be grasping how to engage consumers in a social media conversation and that before you dive into the discussion you begin by listening.
Late last year Pizza Hut thought they'd put out a "viral video." This is one of my pet peeves. You cannot create viral videos. You create a video, you can make it with the hope it will go viral, you can promote it in an effort to help it to go viral but ultimately either it goes viral or it does not regardless of whether or not you made a "viral video."
The video clip of Susan Boyle on Britan's Got Talent was not made as a viral video. Thirty-eight million views and counting later, it is a viral video.
Pizza Hut, however, apparently hired a company that makes so-called viral videos and offers a money back guarantee that their efforts will generate a certain minimum number of hits. Pizza Hut marketing folks, it seems, said to themselves, well our market is young guys and dudes they love the viral videos so we will make one of them there viral videos so as to speak to them in their language.
The result was a video that received a fair number of views and several bad reviews. The message was intended to portray the deep love Pizza Hut fans have for their preferred brand. So much so that they go to other pizza shops, sit down, order delivery from Pizza Hut and get kicked out of the mom and pop shops they invade - all caught on low quality video cam so as to give the appearance of genuine amateur prank.
Oh the hilarity of punking small neighborhood businesses in this economy so as to show loyalty to the big corporate chain! Um, branding fail. All this tells me is not that Pizza Hut is delicious but that it is the brand obnoxious young guys choose.
Now Pizza Hut is looking for a Social Media Intern. It seems to be somewhat similar to the Australian Tourism "Best Job in the World" promotion where applicants applied via video for a $100,000 a year job snorkeling, lounging on the beach and blogging. Now that's viral. And the millions upon millions of free media they got in exchange for $100,000 is well worth it.
Pizza Hut's "Twintern-ship" doesn't come with some fabulous salary posted. The New York Times says it will be competitive with other Twitterers - which would mean working for free. In fact it appears to be an actual job where they expect you to work. But for a college kid it could be a great high profile resume bullet. And hopefully Pizza Hut will incorporate social media marketing into its larger marketing function and strategy and either hire a full time social media evangelist or explore ways to redefine the priorities of marketers in their company so as to create time for social media as part of their job description.
I'm glad to see though that Pizza Hut is now planning to do what they should have done in the first place before attempting to create social media content and that is to listen:
Monitor social media for pop culture news, off-the-wall stories or anything else quirky and fun that he or she thinks would be of interest to loyal Pizza Hut fans.
They need to also listen to what their consumers are saying but it's a start. And if they are really serious about getting it right this time then I hope they do get their desired server-melting onslaught of YouTube videos.