Bunnies in the oven: Hell’s controversial rabbit pizza campaign leads to record sales

Hell’s hugely successful Pizza Roulette campaign showed that punters were willing to try something new, even if it burned the crap out of their (or, preferably, their friends’) mouths. And its gourmet (and slightly experimental) Rabbit Pizza proved it again after it sold out in less than three weeks and delivered the business its best week of sales in its 18 year history.

After initial sales showed Kiwis were keen on this new variety of Easter bunny, Hell tried to source more smoked wild rabbit from its Southland suppliers, but weather conditions defied the professional hunters.

“We initially thought that 600kg would suffice, but soon realised that demand for the product was far greater than we forecast,” says Hell’s general manager Ben Cumming. “Regardless, we’re delighted with the result – 6,562 pizzas were sold, which, by our estimates, equates to around 13,000 Kiwis trying our Gourmet Rabbit Pizza. While we like to be edgy and irreverent where we can, Hell prides itself on being innovative; bringing something new to the market that lots of people haven’t experienced before is therefore really satisfying. It ultimately reaffirmed to us that our customers enjoy trying new things.”

Like many of its previous campaigns, Hell’s rabbit-skin billboard in Parnell via Barnes, Catmur & Friends and its cheeky lost and found posters generated plenty of interest, provoking vigorous debate on social media and leading to six complaints to the ASA (none of which were upheld). And like Pizza Roulette, the discussion was also picked up in international media, with Time, The Daily Mail and many others featuring it.

“The billboard had its detractors, but most people would struggle to be offended. All the positive feedback we received and our sales results overwhelmingly shows that, with a 19 percent increase in sales from Easter last year,” Cumming says. “We never set out to offend people with our marketing, but we accept that, while trying to make people laugh and provoke discussion, it’s unrealistic to expect a 100 percent positive response.”

The rabbit pizza is the first in Hell’s Wild Food range and other products will be announced over the course of 2014. Might we suggest weka, hoisin sauce, rocket and mandarin zest? 

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