Running behind on a Valentine's Day gift? Now people around the world can give their sweethearts something saucy – courtesy of a Canadian idea.
Yum Brands Inc. has announced that its Pizza Hut perfume, a marketing stunt invented in Canada late last year, will now be available in more than a dozen countries. Bottles of the eau de dough are being shipped in the United States, Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan (where Valentine's gifts are usually mostly given by women to men), the Philippines, Thailand, South Korea, India, the U.K., Guatemala, El Salvador, and some markets in the Middle East.
In the U.S., the company is marketing the scent by asking fans to send messages on Twitter with the hashtag #LastMinuteLovers – because nothing says romance like a bottle of fast-food smells that your significant other won in an online contest after forgetting to buy you a present.
The perfume started as a Facebook post by Pizza Hut Canada's social media team at its ad agency, Grip Limited. In August, they asked fans on Facebook what a Pizza Hut perfume might smell like. The response was so overwhelming – nearly 2,000 people weighed in – that the company decided to actually manufacture the scent in limited-edition bottles sent to 100 online fans in September.
The attention-grabbing social media marketing initiative is now spreading; a coup for any Canadian marketer that is part of a larger multinational corporation. Soon after it launched, the Canadian office began receiving calls from others wanting to mimic the stunt – including one from the head of international public affairs at Yum Brands head office in Kentucky. He co-ordinated with the rest of the countries to schedule the promotions around Valentine's Day. They will use the same scent concocted here.
While the product was a lark, however, the process was serious: Pizza Hut Canada hired an aromachologist, or scent expert, and tested a number of concoctions. They finally settled on a scent described as "fresh dough with a bit of spice."
"I was smelling all the different perfumes. My husband was like, 'What are you doing?'" Pizza Hut Canada's marketing director, Beverly D'Cruz, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail in December. Ms. D'Cruz said that sniffing pizza-themed perfumes was most definitely the goofiest marketing project she had encountered in her career.
When Grip won the Pizza Hut business in Canada in November of 2011, one of the main jobs the agency was assigned was to increase the social media presence of the fast food brand here.
"We actually have a budget [for] fun and crazy things," Ms. D'Cruz said in an interview Tuesday. "It's a new form of marketing that we've begun to do. Not everything has to generate sales and numbers. You can just have some fun, too."
The perfume campaign was an immediate success: In September, when the team posted a note on Facebook saying that the first 100 fans to respond with a message would receive a bottle, they expected maybe 250 replies. More than 1,000 messages arrived in the first hour.
The bottles were never on sale in Canada, offered only as a limited-edition prize. However, at least one made it to the online market: a bottle advertised as no. 16 of the 100 bottles sent out was sold on eBay in December for about $417.
And now that it has become an international parfumier, Pizza Hut Canada is trying its hand at the music business.
On Valentine's Day this Thursday, to "thank fans for inspiring such global pizza love," the company is releasing its first single, a ballad called Lovers. The Boyz II Men-style serenade includes such cringe-inducing lyrics as "I know that we're just friends/ but I'd really, really love to treat ya / Will you be my valentine? / And what do you like on your pizza?"
The company will post the song on its Facebook page and offer a free download, and will likely do something similar to the perfume promotion, offering a limited number of CDs to fans.
"We see a lot of response from fans when we do interesting tactics like this," Ms. D'Cruz said. "It's about creating an emotional bond with them, beyond our food."
The full lyrics of Pizza Hut Canada's new single, Lovers, to be released online on Valentine's Day.
This is a story about love.
That hot, steamy kind of love.
I know that we're just friends
But I'd really really love to treat ya
Will you be my valentine?
And what do you like on your pizza?
You'll say that I'm moving fast
But I really don't wanna wait
Let's order Pizza Hut together
Baby — we can make it great
Meat lovers, cheese lovers.
You mean so much to me.
Veggie lovers, supreme lovers.
Any lover you want me to be.
Your eyes are as green as these olives
They make me stop and stare
And your breath smells like dipping sauce
But I don't even care
You're the cheese to my stuffed crust.
I'll do whatever it takes
'Cause your love brings tears to my eyes
Like crushed red pepper flakes
When you're not around
I don't know who I am
I'm like a lost delivery driver,
A Hawaiian without ham!
My box is open, my heart is too
Don't want this taste to end
Let's make tonight last forever
Baby, can we order again?