Pizza Hut Restaurants – Thriving in a declining market with Taste Freedom


In 2015, Yum sold Pizza Hut Restaurants (PHR) to the Rutland Group for a token £1, as part of a turnaround plan following years of deficit.

Competitors in casual dining had enticed younger audiences with deals, ambassadors and on-trend ‘cheat’ food, which left PHR in the past. The brand conjured up perceptions of messy families with children running amok at the Ice Cream Factory, whereas now, the cool, relaxed vibe and range of products and edgy marketing has left a far sweeter taste in our audiences’ mouths. 

Taste Freedom is the big idea at the heart of the campaign, designed to embrace an American-spirited, “be yourself” mentality:

Following the introduction of Taste Freedom, PHR has changed. A lot. The offline turnaround saw a new menu, new look and a fresh new perspective in 200 Huts throughout the country. As part of this plan, Tangerine won a competitive pitchwith a three-year strategy to re-invigorate the brandby reflecting the turnaround plan online.The core objective was toraise awareness and understandingof PHR’s new offer (experience, product and perspective) among 16-30 year old pizza loverswho frequently dine out, with the goal of stealing market shareback from competitors and inspiring them to try PHR, ultimately driving positivityaround the brand that will result in increased sales YOY.


A strategic framework was developed to grow the brand for the long-term. It was imperative for the success of the campaign that we earn our credibilityand status with this audience rather than using heavy ad buys and brand ambassadors, as the equity would be short-lived and decrease once the ‘spikes’ had concluded. 

The approach targeted frequent pizza loving casual diners aged 16-30, using a bold tone of voice, implementing a robust content strategy and ‘always on’ approach

In addition to the above, each year we have executed a series of tactics to enhance and accelerate the strategy. To give you a flavour: 

Year One: Listen 

o   The year of test and learn, listening to the audience, understanding what they want and delivering it to them in a PHR style to build a relevant and meaningful connection

o   Topical Content- we created a calendar of events that were relevant to the audience and created engaging content around this 

o   Cheeky Reactive– we jumped on the back of topical events with witty content that engaged the audience.

o   Experiential activity– we visited businesses across the UK on Blue Monday (the most depressing day of the year) with pizzas and little surprises. Or when we bought The Tide into Huts after each of their gig

o   Strategic Partnership– we worked with one of the UK’s top YouTubers (Comedy Shorts Gamer – Deji)in one of his first ever brand collaborations, bringing him and his parents into the Hut for a prank video. This alone generated £300k in sales by reaching over 5M people

o   Customer service– using the tone of voice to engage customers and turn negative experiences into positive ones

Year Two: Engage:

o   After taking learnings from year one, we agreed a strategic approach of fewer, bigger, better, refining our activity with bigger experiential activations that really drove our message home 

o   Upload: We maintained the relationship with Comedy Shorts Gamer (and his agent) from year one and worked with them on Upload, an event hosted by a cohort of YouTube stars which is specifically aimed at our target audience and celebrates all things YouTube. We helped to craft the event and ultimatley became the headline sponsor at a significantly reduced price

On the day we saw content seeded out to the Sidemen’s 31m YouTube subscribers and 7mTwitter followers as well as a sales increase of £44k in local Huts

o   Ibiza Rocks: To cement the positioning of the brand we partnered with Ibiza Rocks and hosted a Hangover Hut the day after Craig David’s opening pool party. The content organically aligned PHR with brands/influencers including Love Island favourites, Gyspy Shrine (who we also secured to participate in our hang-over hut) and MTV even flew out and covered the event free of charge.

o   Topical content and Cheeky Reactive were also fundemental to our approach, as the year saw us push boundaries and grow our influence, being picked up by large scale aggregators like Pretty 52 and Sport Bible on a regular basis

Year 3: Own 

o    Year three was the year of stepping up, leveraging the equity that we had built up over the past two years to own the marketplace, broadening the audience focus to increase the reach of the brand 

o    Sidemen Vs AllStars: Further cultivating the relationship with the Sidemen and their manager meant that we negotiated a partnership for PHR to support the Sidemen’s charity football match against the YouTube AllStars (two of the biggest cohorts of YouTubers globally), in fact one of PHR’s partners, Pepsi even came on board to further support the event. 

The activation included: 

o   A series of competitions – including the chance to be PHR’s Access All Areas Reporter on the day, enabling us to capture footage of the day from the POV of our target audience

o   The launch of a SDMN branded sticker book, distributed across national huts to drive footfall and get audiences swapping stickers online and at the game

o   A dedicated landing page for data capture 

o   Engagements with SDMN (combined 10m following)

Raise awareness and understanding of PHR’s new offer (experience, product and perspective)
541m users
Content embodying Taste Freedom
Social following growth
25 million
Video views with #TasteFreedom messaging
300% increase
Instagram following
Stealing market share back from competitors and inspiring them to try PHR, ultimately driving positivity around the brand that will result in increased sales YOY. 
2 million
of traffic to the PHR website has come from organic searches
2.5 million


Pizza Hut Restaurants

Taste Freedom is the big idea at the heart of the campaign, designed to embrace an American-spirited, “be yourself” mentality: