• In Thailand's pizza wars, image is everything

    Tags: Marketing

There's a pizza battle underway in Thailand between a world leader and a local upstart.

According to The Nation, Bill Heinecke, president of the Minor Group, the company that introduced pizza to the Southeast Asian country by bringing Pizza Hut there more than 20 years ago, cut his decades-old relationship with Pizza Hut in 2000.

Minor Group then took its 120 formerly franchised store sites and introduced a competitor known as The Pizza Company in 2001.

Danai Chanchaochai, CEO of MDK Consultants Thailand Ltd., the firm that led The Pizza Company through its re-imaging campaign, set out to develop a strategy to crack into Pizza Hut's 90-percent market share.

MDK, ad agency DY&R and Minor Group formed an eight-person task force in November 2000 to explore how it could make the Thai people connect with The Pizza Company brand. Among the emotional factors it emphasized was the fact that the Minor Group was a Thai company.

The group actively promoted the fact that Heinecke personally led the development of Thailand's pizza industry. Danai said, "The implication was that they understood Thai tastes and preferences better than Tricon," the U.S. fast-food parent company of Pizza Hut.

Specifically, The Pizza Company's people were projected as locals who knew Thai preferences better than foreigners.

"We knew that Thai people prefer more toppings and more pizza varieties," Danai said. Aware that Pizza Hut franchisees were constrained by corporate policies from adding unique ingredients to specific pizzas, the task force "emphasized in all of our promotions that The Pizza Company would have more toppings and varieties."

Individually, The Pizza Company's managers and human-resources people were paraded before the media to show their friendliness.

"I think that everyone did a great job of conveying the company's new image," Danai said.

No word yet on whether The Pizza Company's strategy has succeeded as its first full year in business is not yet complete.

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