Share this:

Usually, tomato paste.

Unfortunately, better claims notwithstanding, that’s not going to work for Papa John’s founder.

Our 2018 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index pizza rankings look like this:

  1. Domino’s
  2. Papa Murphy’s
  3. Pizza Hut
  4. Little Caesar’s
  5. Papa John’s
  6. Chuck E. Cheese

How did the brand sink from its perennial #2 spot to #5? First there was the NFL blame-game debacle, when founder, John Schnatter, blamed disappointing sales on players kneeling during the national anthem. 1st Quarter ’18 sales fell 5.3%!

Then this week, Forbes reported Schnatter used the N-word during a conference call. University of Louisville removed his name from its football stadium and Center for Free Enterprise. Major League Baseball indefinitely suspended a promotion that offered fans discounts at the pizza chain after grand slams. The company is pulling his image from all marketing efforts.

Mr. Schnatter apologized and resigned as chairman, although as of the writing of this note has been making noises that he shouldn’t have had to. So not a good week for the founder. But the good news is there is hope for the brand.

There’s a difference between being “founder” and “brand.” Dave Thomas was the founder and successful spokesperson of Wendy’s, but not the brand. Col. Sanders was the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken and oft-imitated spokesperson, but not the brand. Richard Branson was founder and spokesman for Virgin, but was never, ever mistaken for the brand.

There’s a big difference between being “founder” and being “brand,” and a brand can be saved if managed properly. That’s not always true for a founder no matter how many apologies or denials they issue.

Because, particularly in this category, when customers emotionally engage with a brand, they also give up a pizza their hearts.


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

Share this: