No one can "out-pizza the hut". When Jayss Rajoo, director of marketing and food innovation at Pizza Hut, joined the team, she had only one goal in mind – to propel the brand’s digital transformation into the future.
The heritage restaurant chain, according to Rajoo, was running on old systems and processes when she joined in 2020, and the journey of moving from traditional to digital was a long process. In fact, Rajoo, who was speaking at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Digital Marketing Asia 2023 conference, shared that she needed three different vendors to push out one electronic direct mail (EDM) at the time.
One of the most significant moves towards digitalisation that Rajoo and her team made this year in particular was turning to AI to redefine how the company interacts with its customers and bringing a new level of personalisation to their brand experience.
“What we did was we started using AI-powered predictive tools because we can better analyse large data sets, identify the trends that tells us these patterns, and then use the analysis to plan better, and create more personalised marketing messages,” said Rajoo at MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s Digital Marketing Asia 2023 event.
Digitalising allowed Rajoo and her team to manage their time more efficiently and focus on other goals such as increasing customer lifetime value and acquiring new customers amongst many others.
“Using AI really helps small teams like us to make calculated decisions on the fly, have little turnaround time and differentiates Pizza Hut from our competitors. It also helps me manage my resources a lot more efficiently,” said Rajoo.
“To be honest there is no way you can do this on your own. On top of constantly looking to acquire new customers, we need to ensure that we make current customers order more often so this was crucial to the business," she said, adding:
Not all organisations can afford a huge team which is why we decided to invest in automation and AI.
Justifying the costs
Saying that, Rajoo admitted that investing in AI is a costly affair – but that it was absolutely necessary for the team.
“Of course, we have to increase our expenses and the frequency of our expenses – but we want to build loyalty, build relationships, differentiate ourselves from the competition, acquire new customers and gain customer insights.”
The brand has also started utilising AI to create content such as marketing copies and visual assets which has further saved the brand money.
In April this year, Pizza Hut launched its first AI-based value campaign. Titled "Takeaway Pocket Pleasers", the campaign used AI programme Midjourney to create a visual that showcases the unmistakable DNA of the Pizza Hut brand. The campaign featured arresting AI-generated visual highlights that emphasised the brand's commitment to remain accessible to everyone as they cut down advertising and creative costs and pass the savings down to its customers.
Fast forward to November this year and Pizza Hut Hong Kong launched its first AI deepfake campaign. The campaign was to celebrate the launch of its new Seafood and Chicken Twisted Crust Pizzas and aimed to bring the concept of “twist” to life in an imaginable way, from face twists to mood twists and plot twists with the magic of AI.
Rajoo said that it was the first time in the history of Pizza Hut campaigns where it “didn’t have a photographer taking pictures of pizzas.”
"Unlike other food campaigns – we did not invest in expensive food photography or creative asset creation and worked with our agency Team Lewis to create the creatives for the campaign from scratch. The creatives were used in all our communications," she said, adding:
Using AI powered tools helped us in terms of not just cost efficiencies, but we were able to turn the campaign around in record time as well.
The dangers of over-reliance
While digitalising traditional practices and adopting AI-predictive tools have revolutionised Pizza Hut’s marketing strategies, Rajoo warns of over-reliance. While AI is the future, Rajoo asserts that AI cannot replicate the human experience.
“The only key call out when we work with AI is that we will need the team to review things regularly, because it is still a machine at the end of the day. It doesn’t feel." she said.
Rajoo added that the company still needs people to look at the messaging and make sure it is not encroaching on anything that is sensitive and that privacy policies are managed well.
“So training, understanding the system is crucial. We also have to accept that AI and machine learning is a long-term strategy, and that it requires a fair bit of investment – not just in terms of price but in time as well.”
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