An August filing to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicates that Papa John’s may be planning to ditch the apostrophe from its name, a move that would remove any sense of the possessive from the brand. It’s no longer Papa John’s pizza. It’s everyone’s pizza. We are all Papas John.
Ad Age reports that the filings, submitted late last month, concerned both “new wording and brand imagery.” Founder John Schnatter, who stepped down as chairman of the company’s board in July after what you might call “a bunch of crazy shit,” remains the company’s largest shareholder, but should this move take effect, it would emphasize the distance between Schnatter and the chain. It’s also considerably simpler than changing the slogan to “Better ingredients. Better pizza. Better in general because the guy who threw out the n-word isn’t in charge anymore, y’all know that, right?”
If implemented, it would be merely the latest in a series of course-corrections for the pizza chain. It removed Schnatter’s face from pizza boxes and issued a new values statement. It ran an ad highlighting tweets that call the company racist. Another is its latest marketing campaign, which strongly emphasizes that the brand is bigger that that one guy. Think of it as #NotAllPapaJohns, in video form.
The Papa John’s Twitter account has been changing its displayed name, bio, and photo to reflect all the “Papas” that make up the company. On September 24, it was Papa Brant Barnes, a franchise owner in three states. This morning, it was Papa Marco Parker, the general manager of a location in Oklahoma. At the time of this writing, it’s Papa Kiersten Bates, another G.M., from Michigan. Each bio ends with the phrase “I am one of 120,000 voices of Papa John’s.”
Each “Papa” gets a little video spot all their own. In Bates’ video, the intent behind these spotlights is made clear:
“We just want people to know that we are locally owned and operated. Just the drivers, the person slapping out your pizza, the person handing it to you, the person answering the phone, we are one. We are family there, and when you come and order a pizza from us, you become part of our family.”
Then the screen flashes to the company’s logo, which flips through several names that are not John before landing back on the original.
As mentioned above, while Schnatter is now officially done with the day-to-day business of the company (though not with the day-to-day business of being an asshole), he remains its largest shareholder—so, the part of the family that stands to make money off the family even though he’s not invited to Thanksgiving, I guess? As Takeout editor Kevin Pang put it in an earlier piece on this convoluted saga, “it’s a shame that one ding dong (who happens to be the company founder and whose face graces the pizza box) threw himself into the cultural political fray, offhandedly used the N-word in a conference call, and claimed extortion against his corporate board, and basically single handedly caused his franchisees to suffer financially.” Maybe the missing apostrophe will help.
Read more about this in Ad Age’s coverage, found here.