“How can Papa John’s move forward when the guy causing the company’s problems is in the commercials and on all the signs, pizza boxes and even the logo?” a piece Friday by CNN Money asks, noting that John Schnatter — Papa John — resigned as chairman of the company this week after using the N-word on a conference call in May.
“Schnatter had apologized earlier in the day [Wednesday] after Forbes reported that he used the racial slur while participating in a role-playing exercise designed to prevent public relations crises,” CNN reported.
In a terse statement released Wednesday, Papa John’s said: “Papa John’s International, Inc. today announced that the independent directors of the company have accepted the resignation of John H. Schnatter as Chairman of the Board. Olivia Kirtley acts as the company’s Lead Independent Director. Papa John’s will appoint a new Chairman of the Board in the coming weeks.”
CNN reports: “Schnatter remains on the board and he’s still the company’s largest shareholder, but Papa John’s must now pivot to a marketing campaign not attached to his identity. The company said on Friday it is removing his face from its marketing materials.”
The report quotes Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing, saying: “The difficultly Papa John’s faces in pivoting the brand away from Schnatter is that they first need to treat this as a crisis and then redefine what their brand is and what it stands for.”
CNN adds: “The company probably doesn’t need a new name, though. A full rebranding would be even more expensive than shooting new commercials and changing pizza boxes and signage. Papa John’s could win back customers with a marketing campaign like Wells Fargo, Uber or Facebook’s. Those brands in crisis apologized for bad behavior and explained how they planned to move on.”