How brands choose which causes to support says a lot about the brand. In the case of Pizza Hut, its long association with promoting children’s literacy was inspired by the personal interest of one of its past presidents. Today, on the 50th anniversary of UNESCO’s International Literacy Day, the No. 1 global pizza chain is launching the next chapter in that commitment with The Literacy Project, billed as “a new global commitment to literacy and reading.”
Pizza Hut is enlisting ABC’s Modern Family star Rico Rodriguez, who plays Manny in the popular sitcom, to promote the US-based educational campaign. In addition to appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America, the young actor is at PS 30 Elementary School in New York City today, on the first day of public school for NYC kids, to talk up the importance of reading and distribute free books to second and third grade students.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) September 8, 2016
“We’re really focused on the impact we can have on literacy because of our reach and our size,” Doug Terfehr, senior director of PR and CSR for Pizza Hut, told brandchannel. “Beyond just the number of people we expose to the idea of it, how are we impacting their lives through literacy?”
Pizza Hut’s commitment to literacy includes the ongoing Book It! Program, which it estimates has benefited one in five Americans. For The Literacy Project, Pizza Hut partnered with First Book, a not-for-profit that provides new books and other resources to needy children.
— Doug Terfehr (@dougterfehr) September 8, 2016
Terfehr talks more about the brand’s latest CSR effort below.
bc: Why did Pizza Hut first get involved in literacy as a cause?
Doug Terfehr (right): Our president in the early 1980s was Art Gunther, and he actually had a son who was about eight or nine years old who didn’t love reading. So Art came up with an idea: If you finish reading assignments this month I’ll take you out for a pizza. That was motivation enough. And Art just felt that there might be other kids like his so why don’t we partner with experts in this area?
bc: How does The Literacy Project renew that commitment?
Terfehr: The biggest part that’s different is we’re expanding it to all markets. Book It! does run in other countries but mostly it’s a US-based program. Hopefully, ultimately, this will be utilized in all 102 countries where Pizza Hut is.
bc: Why was Rico Rodriguez selected as the celebrity ambassador for The Literacy Project’s kick-off this week?
Terfehr: We chose him in part because of his international appeal. He’s always on those Nickelodeon shows, and awards shows where he’s giving an award and receiving an award. So he really has this broad appeal, and he’s seen as a celebrity who’s fun and he has a good sense of humor.
bc: Is the definition of literacy expanding to include digital literacy such as coding?
Terfehr: The way in which people are experiencing or are developing a love of reading at a young age certainly has changed. There are so many more ways that are electronic and digital, and a big part of our partnership with First Book is to provide free digital resources as much as we are traditional books. There’s such an ability to reach people on a broader scale through digital reading and e-books.
bc: There’s certainly a battle in the pizza business these days to be No. 1 in technology as Pizza Hut vies with Domino’s and Papa John’s – how does digital innovation impact your status as being No. 1 in sales?
Terfehr: We’re all about the same in terms of the amount of orders we’re receiving digitally; everyone is about at 50 percent. For Pizza Hut our focus has been on making it easy wherever the channel is. Not necessarily being on every channel but wherever it is, making it easier. That’s our differentiation. We believe in many ways we’re leading on the easy side. Everyone is focused on the quick transaction.