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Social Media Pet Fury Caused by Rogue Pizza Hut Franchisee

Posted by on 18 Dec 2014

Maintaining consistent branding through your marketing is essential to the overall brand identity of your business.  Controlling the behaviour of other entities and networks related to a particular brand can be difficult. A social media backlash following a recent promotion by a Pizza Hut franchised store in Melbourne has demonstrated the importance of establishing policies for all entities linked to a brand, not just for the company itself. This incident also highlights the importance of franchisor’s keeping a close eye on their franchisee’s social media activities.

The Melbourne Pizza Hut franchisee promised consumers a free small animal with the purchase of any 10 of their large pizzas. In-store signage read “Buy any 10 large pizzas and get one small animal from Pets Story (a local pet shop).” Fury was sparked amongst social media users and as a result the Australian animal rights group Oscar’s Law became aware of the promotion. This was a particularly contentious issue for Oscar’s Law as the group opposes the sale of animals in pet stores in general and so they posted an image of the sign to their Facebook page.

Shortly after, a Victorian spokesperson for Pets Story and senior employee indicated to the public that the sign had been incorrectly printed and should have said “free animal kit” instead.

Pizza Hut Australia also took to social media to apologise for the outrage caused and even thanked Oscar’s Law for causing the commotion which brought the mishap to Pizza Hut’s attention. The franchisor’s response also revealed that the promotion was not approved by Pizza Hut Australia. The franchisor did not condone the giving away of live animals in any context. The sign has since been removed.

Because social media is instantaneous, aggrieved parties no longer need to contact a company directly to air their complaints. Given the nature of social media, the comments put pressure on the franchisor to rectify the issue quickly. However, what this case really emphasises is the importance of having policies in place that ensure consistency is maintained across all brand management , such as in the case of a franchisor and franchisee relationship. The actions of one rogue franchisee have the ability to tarnish the franchisor’s entire brand and cause irreparable damage to its goodwill in the brand. So our key tips are to keep a close eye on the social media activities of your franchisees, subsidiaries and affiliated entities and make sure that you have proper controls in place in the event that something goes wrong.

For more advice on social media laws and policy and franchising please contact:

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