I was probably 10 the first time I saw Back to the Future 2. A few years after its release, it still seemed a very exciting future to look forward too – a future that a kid like me at the time might actually have the chance to experience one day…
Of all the brands that re-imagined themselves and their products in BTTF2's 2015, Pizza Hut makes a short but unforgettable appearance. The scene shows the McFly family gathering for dinner as Lorraine McFly politely asks a Black & Decker hydrator to hydrate a miniature pizza, which is ready in 2 seconds. This brief cameo would be enough to have us wondering for years when the wonderful Black & Decker/Pizza Hut combo would become a reality. But how accurate were the brand's predictions in 1989? Does Pizza Hut, once the main pizza chain in America, transmit a clear and distinctive purpose nowadays?
Firstly, Pizza Hut's identity in the film is more geometric that the iconic 80s design. The typography is blocky and almost mechanical, visually aligned with a characteristic depiction of futuristic graphic design in the 80s. Still, there are strong visual links between the two logos, which shows that Pizza Hut's vision of itself 26 years later remained loyal to its most characteristic elements.
This depiction, however, couldn't be further from reality. In real life, Pizza Hut has rebranded itself several times since 1989, deviating further from its iconic 80s identity with every new attempt. The current year-old logo feels much less industrial and more human than the one in BTTF2. The wordmark is hand-drawn and the bold iconic roof is reduced to a graphic detail within an expressive red roundel. Accompanied by the new tagline, 'the Flavor of Now', this is the brand's greatest effort to renovate since 1999.
However, while it seems that Pizza Hut’s strong heritage has been progressively diluted, the brand hasn't really grounded anything new or strongly distinctive that sets it apart from other similar competitors —even some of the ‘brand new’ uniforms proudly show the 80s identity, in what seems to be an effort to cling to better times.
But secondly, and more interestingly, BTTF2 suggests a 2015 when pre-cooked dehydrated goods —let’s assume not just pizzas— are consumed on a regular basis. Where would Pizza Hut actually sit in the market if this had become true? In the film, the product offer seems practically unchanged, compared to its 80s equivalent. This, together with the brand's real trajectory in the last decades, makes me feel more inclined to think it would sit together with many other brands with a similar offer.
Besides, even if Pizza Hut led the race to hydration, would a product like this engage with the wider customer-base in real 2015? While it feels perfectly suited to our busy lifestyles, as we become much more aware of the industrial processes involved in the food we eat, the inevitable question is: if you had the opportunity now, would you even want to try a hydrated pizza? I wouldn’t.
It is of course very difficult to predict what the consumer trends and expectations are going to be 26 years in the future, even more to anticipate to them with a successful brand proposition or product offer. Will Pizza Hut or any of the brands portrayed in BTTF2 ever be able to do it? We might find out in 2041.
You can read more about Back to the Future Day and whether the featured brands were successful in predicting their future in our Creative Director, Natasha Chance's article over at The Drum.Photo Credit: HighDefDigest and UnderConsideration