- Papa John's on Tuesday debuted a brand campaign that features a diverse group of the chain's franchisees and employees describing why they value working with the company and how they all work better together. Creative includes a 60-second "Voices of Papa John's" commercial and a series of shorter videos with more in-depth profiles of individual workers.
- At the end of the 60-second spot, the brand's logo cycles through various names — Papa Daniel's, Papa Kiersten's, etc. — before landing back at Papa John's. The effort includes a microsite hosting the creative and detailing Papa John's commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, which was introduced by CEO Steve Ritchie following the ousting of founder John Schnatter earlier this summer. Schnatter remains the company's largest shareholder and has criticized Papa John's efforts to diminish his influence over the brand.
- In related news, Ad Age on Tuesday reported on a company filing from Papa John's that suggests the brand is seeking out a new logo. The company could potentially switch its branding to the apostrophe-free Papa Johns, along with adjusting its brand iconography for a simpler two-color or black-and-white design, according to a filing to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office submitted late last month. A spokesperson told Ad Age there are no immediate plans to use the updated logo.
When Endeavor Global Marketing was brought on as Papa John's new agency of record earlier this summer, the shop made it clear that a recovery play for the brand would not include an apology tour for Schnatter's behavior but instead be focused on improving company culture and emotional appeals to consumers. The first major campaign to debut under Endeavor lives up to those commitments, emphasizing solidarity among the some 120,000 franchisees and employees at Papa John's, who have so far proved to be a sympathetic draw for the embattled pizza maker.
"Moving forward, you will see more from the people who make up the Papa John's family in everything the brand does — starting with these commercials and other activations on Papa John's website, social channels and in local communities," a spokesperson for Papa John's told Marketing Dive via emailed comments.
Schnatter first stepped down as CEO in January after pinning poor performance at the chain on the NFL national anthem protests. He then resigned as chairman of the board in July after a Forbes report detailing his use of a racial slur and other racially-charged comments during a conference call.
The symbolic gesture to potentially drop an apostrophe from the Papa John's logo fits in-line with a forward-looking approach, where a single "John" does not wield ownership over the franchise. However, the road ahead remains long for a business that was already struggling before cutting ties with its founder. The Forbes reporting that initially broke news of Schnatter's racist comments also detailed a broader toxic company culture that extended past the founder and included current executives like Ritchie.
At the same time, Schnatter has refused to back down since his ousting, and even launched a truther website in August that pleas for franchisee and employee support in his battle against the board, which he claims is trying to silence him. Schnatter frequently served as pitchman for his businesses, and has been so closely tied to Papa John's branding and name that it might be difficult for consumers to adjust to his absence, though he has recently been scrubbed from marketing materials.
Finally, there is a question of rehabilitating sales, which have been grim. Papa John's same-store sales in North America dipped 10.5% in July — the month the Forbes report broke — and fell 6.1% for Q2 overall. In the third-quarter thus far, same-store sales are believed to be down 10% to 11%, according to CNBC. Stifel analyst Chris O'Cull also recently forecast that Papa John's could close up to 250 stores over the next six months, per CNBC, which might hinder its franchisee-focused marketing strategy.