Monday, February 28, 2011

Are You Wasting Your Ad Dollars? (And Why I'm Not Going Back To Pizza Hut)

On February 14th, the missus walked in from work and asked, "What are we doing for dinner?" What with it being Valentine's Day and me knowing she'd had a hard day, I thoughtfully responded, "Well, what special Valentines dinner are you gonna cook for me?" No, she didn't throw anything at me, primarily because she was afraid she might aim for me and hit our son. My beloved wife possesses neither a good aim nor an appreciation for my sense of humor...

Since we celebrate Valentine's Day on any night but February 14th, this night was going to be a "grab dinner out" night. Hence, looking for something affordable and fast that everyone in the family would enjoy, we made the decision to call Pizza Hut and get a $10 pizza. (In the name of full disclosure, I've worked on the Pizza Hut account, done radio voiceovers for them, and even appeared in one of their print ads as a hand model in an ironically titled FSI). Placing the order on the phone was easy and I was told my pizza would be ready in 25-30 minutes. That was the first thing they got wrong.

I arrived at the Hut to pick up our dinner 30 minutes later only to be informed it was still in the oven. No timeline on when it would be ready was given. I was then ignored for 30 minutes with no updates, no apologies, nothing. I was joined in my wait by others who had also been informed their dinner would be ready in 25-30 minutes. Together with my new "friends" in pathetic pizza service, we all giggled every time someone else arrived expecting their pizza to be ready. We shook our heads and muttered when we heard Hut employees tell delivery callers their order would take 90 minutes to two hours to arrive. We watched in disbelief as one woman who'd ordered her pizza online arrived only to find there was no record of her order at all.

Finally, an hour and five minutes after I was told my order would be ready in 25 to 30 minutes, I was handed my pizza and bread sticks (with no apology and no explanation, just an autopilot "Thanks!"). I rushed to the car, eager to get dinner home for my son before he had to go to bed. Once I put the pizza down in the car however, I remembered I'd also ordered a bottle of soda. It took another five minutes to get that and, by the time I finally got home with our sumptuous Pizza Hut dinner (I'm five minutes away from my nearest Hut location), it was lukewarm at best.

So aside from a rant and me venting, what's the lesson in all this? The old adage is that a satisfied customer will tell one person about what they enjoyed about a business, but the dissatisfied customer will tell seven about their bad experience (in the Internet age, one could multiply that by at least a factor of 10). That they failed on so many levels in my experience means I won't be subjecting myself to Pizza Hut again, since they obviously can't deliver on what they promise (at least during peak times). Hence, any further ad dollars they spend to reach someone like me will be wasted.

Now, given Pizza Hut's advertising budget and market footprint, I'm quite aware losing me as customer won't do them a bit of harm. I also understand my local Hut might have been having a bad night. But, as I said above, the total failure on every level tells me that, though their ads may be convincing, they apparently lack the resources to do what they spend millions to say they'll deliver.

Now think about what you advertise and what you promise in your ads and promotional materials. You see and hear plenty of promises in every form of advertising but, what does your message say that makes you stand out from the crowd? Once the customer has acted on your advertising message, look at how you keep the promises you make. Does your product measure up the quality you promise? Do you deliver on your promise (service before, during, and after the sale) with the same level of quality you advertise? Finally can your business afford to not deliver on your promise to any customer?

In my career, I've had several clients state they thought advertising was a waste of money. And, while I've always done my best to show them the value and return-on-investment advertising offers, if you can't deliver on what you promise in your advertising and marketing efforts, you really are wasting your money!

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