- Papa John's CEO Steve Ritchie said during the company's Q3 2018 earnings call that consumers have responded positively to its new campaign "Voices of Papa John's," which launched in September and features real employees and franchise owners, according to a transcript of the call posted at Seeking Alpha.
- Consumer sentiment for the brand has shifted from mostly negative to neutral or positive, Ritchie said, referencing YouGov Brand Index data. The messaging of the Voices campaign helped drive a "modest improvement" in traffic in September and contributed to the improved perception, according to Kantar Millward Brown research cited by Ritchie.
- The brand will also reportedly funnel at additional $10 million into its marketing efforts following the strong results, according to AdAge.
Statements made during Papa John's latest earnings call suggest that the brand has found a marketing angle that resonates with consumers, helping initiate a rebound following a string of bad publicity and controversy over the past few months. Papa John's reported a 9.8% sales decline in North America for Q3, smaller than the 10.9% decline that analysts were expecting, according to Reuters. The brand reported that it expects full-year North America comparable sales to decline between 6.5% to 8.5%, compared to previous forecasts of 7% to 10%.
Papa John's troubles stemmed from the company's founder John Schnatter using a racial slur during a conference call in July and then resigning as chairman of the board. Papa John's responded by removing Schnatter from all of its marketing and advertising, and sought to revamp its branding and marketing.
The "Voices of Papa John's" campaign may be resonating with consumers because of perceived authenticity driven by the use of a diverse set of real-life employees and franchisees in the messaging. Putting a more relatable face on the company and using storytelling is part of the brand's new approach to marketing. The brand hopes to regain consumer trust and improve sales but it's too early to know how big an impact the new campaign will have.
Papa John's is also focusing on "brand differentiation" as part of its marketing efforts, a strategy Ritchie said kicked off with Voices. Going forward, the pizza chain plans to redefine "better" in its tagline — "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza" — to encompass products, customer experience, team and community. Other strategies include operating like a brand management organization, using segmentation to better understand consumers and their needs and innovating when it comes to products, messaging and experience across consumer touch points.
In August, Papa John's selected Endeavor Global Marketing as its new agency of record, with Bozoma Saint John leading the charge. Saint John is well-versed in handling brand controversy, following a one-year stint as marketing chief at Uber, where she helped the brand grapple with a series of image issues, including that the company fostered a hostile work environment for women.
Along with the new marketing strategy, Papa John's has been offering support to franchises, which have seen declining sales since the Schnatter controversy. Both efforts are costly, as the company plans to spend $50 million to $60 million on "special charges," including rebranding and franchise support, this year, which is higher than the previously expected costs of $30 million to $50 million, according to Reuters.