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Can we handle getting N_K_D?

Can we handle getting N_K_D?

A new pizza franchise has arrived in Dubai and has felt the need to tone down its name for the UAE. Seriously, is anybody offended by the name Naked Pizza?

October 25, 2010 3:46 by

A new restaurant franchise has arrived in the UAE. Originally from the US, the Naked brand of pizzerias is opening its first venue in the region at Dubai Marina. The brand’s USP is that it serves “the world’s healthiest pizza.”In fact the website blurb describes it as Pizza 2.0, based on the thinking that pizza does not have to contribute to a global obesity epidemic.

Except that what’s arrived in Dubai is not Naked Pizza. It’s N_K_D Pizza. Showing a possibly admirable desire to respect local sensitivities, the company behind Naked has decided to censor its own name.

Now, a brand expanding into a new market has a right to call itself whatever it likes, of course, but Kipp had to question it: Is the UAE really a country so sensitive we can’t use the word “naked”?

We decided to put the question in our poll: Do you find the name Naked Pizza offensive? And we weren’t surprised by the response: 71 percent of Kipp readers either don’t find the name offensive (46 percent) or couldn’t care less (25 percent). Though we’ll admit, the 29 percent of people who do find it offensive and “totally wrong” caught us by surprise. Perhaps there are more sensitive souls in Dubai than we imagined.

The business decision behind this move remains flawed, if you ask me. The name N_K_D is meaningless – a slightly too clever collection of letters that wants to be smarter than it is. It wants to appear risqué, like it’s flirting with danger, but really it’s just a cop out. The name Naked at least has meaning – the pizzas are healthier, all natural and so on. Speaking to Xpress, co-founder of the New Orleans based company Jeff Leach explained as much: “People always ask the story behind our name and it’s simple. Naked means natural, so we don’t have any artificial additives or preservatives in our pizzas. Our pizzas are lifestyle pizzas for people who want to be healthy as opposed to dieting,” he said.

If the name change is really a move designed to show respect to the UAE market, I think it’s pointless.

But I think this has less to do with the sensitivity of the UAE population than with that of another, more lucrative, market. It’s the only reasonable explanation for the move here in the UAE: Naked has bigger ideas. The huge and more conservative Saudi Arabian market is more likely the company’s ultimate target; tempering the Naked name now will save them a regional re-brand later on, when their expansion begins in earnest.

The problem for me is, Naked Pizza has drawn an artificial line too conservatively. After all, it’s not like they have nude pictures in place of a logo. The move paints the region as being so conservative it can’t handle a simple word referring to the lack of additives in a pizza, and I really don’t believe that’s the case. Do you agree?

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  1. AR on October 25, 2010 3:59 pm

    Sure – like the famous store FCUK leaves much to imagination and they have been here years.

  2. Miss Anne Thropic on October 26, 2010 7:05 am

    Anyone who is offended needs to get a life. I’d just be worried that a Naked Pizza wouldn’t have any toppings on it.

  3. Ian Ohan on October 26, 2010 8:31 am

    Thanks for the coverage and interest. Our product of course refers to natural, however not everyone is or may never be familiar enough with our product (i.e. not pizza eaters) to understand the meaning and might respond negatively to the name as a stand-alone. The fact that 30% of your poll reacted negatively is a strong indication as to the integrity of the business decision to re-brand in the region.

    I myself have lived in the region for 12 years and I am half Arabic myself. I do get it and the initial sensitivity is valid – but not the point. The core of our mission is to engage people in a dialogue about better food related lifestyle choices. The fact that you have written this article is testament to the fact that our N_K_DPizza branding in the region started a dialogue, which is our intention. You yourself have pointed out in your article the true meaning of our branding and reference our meaning and mission – this is valuable.

    The point you raise about regional expansion is also valid and has been factored in to our decision. More importantly, as a fast growing global brand, we need to adapt to specific market nuances and sensibilities – not just here but globally – to ensure that we can achieve our mission – do more good than harm and provide a healthier fast food alternative in a fun and engaging way.

    Our decision to also open our international corporate headquarters in the UAE is largely due to the country’s central place as a cross-roads to the world of business and culture. It would be short sited to annoy anyone in the process because we have not taken the time to understand local culture.

    Now…let’s talk about great tasting, all natural pizza and trying to move the needle on global nutrition related disease…

  4. Nick H on October 26, 2010 9:58 am

    Dear Jeff,

    Neither ‘naked’ nor N_K_D sounds very appetizing.

    You can pat your own back as much as you like for “accomplishing” your PR mission; I am glad I live near a Pizza Express and Bussola isn’t far away. Biella is also good, as is Bella Donna at Mercato mall.

    Kipp, how about another poll of the best pizza places in town?

  5. Zouzou on October 26, 2010 11:15 am

    Wow a brand that is reactive.

  6. Andrew on October 26, 2010 11:18 am

    I can appreciate why the gents above did what they did. Certainly isn’t smugly irritating like French Connection’s abbreviated brandname.

    Since we’re on the subject, I’d like to give my hearty thanks to the clothing store Mango that’s managed to turn their abbreviated brand name into a rude word. Bravo.

  7. Fowzi on October 26, 2010 11:55 am

    FCUK shops are called French Connection here. Besides, a lot of the FCUK branded stuff is not sold in the shops here especially their tshirts etc with interesting use of the brand name. Most of the stuff in the shops have French Connection logos on them

  8. Jeff Leach on October 26, 2010 4:21 pm

    Samuel –

    Thanks for the article – and a great poll. To your point that our name change is a “cop out” – not sure we agree. The decision to go N_K_D was – as you point out – about local sensitivities. We could not afford to spend large sums of money and have to unwind all of our efforts had we decided to launch with NAKED. We clearly agree that the word naked should not be a problem, but as your poll indicates it might be. So, safe bet? Launch with a conversation around N_K_D – hence you have written about it – as many others have and will – and then let the market decide if a move to naked is appropriate. Either way, the N_K_D starts a conversation about our brand – mission accomplished.

    naked pizza

  9. Robbie Vitrano on October 27, 2010 5:14 pm

    Fascinating. Love that you asked these two big questions: 1) Did we make the right business decision? and, 2) is the U.A.E. overly culturally sensitive? I’m absolutely positive we’ll find out about the second one. We’ll happily provide a bit of tension and proactivity in stirring the conversation. As you might guess, we really like interesting conversations.

    And we’re willing to work our way through the first one as our “marketing” has been from day-one based on a surprisingly open exchange with stakeholders ranging from Media (like you Sam), to nutritional experts, to government officials and policy makers, to people who just want a great tasting pizza that won’t harm them or make them feel bad. We invite them in with a robust digital platform, maintain a pretty thick skin and generally see it all as entirely productive if not necessary. If the job is to create a legitimate business that solves a problem, is built to scale and achieve impact – then it makes sense that we view marketing as a utility.

    One of the most interesting things about this business idea, slowly evolving into a brand (if you buy the definition that a brand is a business idea that attains cultural influence) is that the vast majority of the people who advocate for and engage with us have never eaten our pizza. Certainly international media attention for our use of social media and two billionaire backers has something to do with the 400+ stores we have in development, but really, we see this overnight (13 months and counting) “success” as a consequence of building our business around the intensive interest in matters touching on food supply, nutrition, the global obesity epidemic, and a palpable post-recession desire for business to behave with greater social responsibility if not in an entirely new way. The latter point mashes up nicely with your musing on undue cultural sensitivity in the U.A.E. What we have found in a relatively short amount of time is that there is an active and talented young entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region, enthusiastically embracing post-mass media communications technology (social media), eager to assert themselves and take their place in the “what comes next” in the region, economically and socially. That’s evident in the folks involved with the TEDxDubai or the very cool folks at Wild Peeta. By the way, Arab and expat. Very cool.

    We believe these factors – entrepreneurship as an economic and social agent of change, solving problems, sober about its financial and operational imperatives, embracing of technology platforms that allow for meaningful exchange and facilitate innovation, etc. – global dynamics found in our U.S. headquarters of New Orleans, in London, Istanbul, Sydney as well as in the cafes and Facebook pages of the U.A.E. Logistically, the U.A.E is a perfect economic and cultural hub to reach an international audience. That plan is activated best by flat out executing in our stores here. Not for a minute do we have any illusions about being perfect, but always engaged, paying attention and asking our customers to do the same. And I guess we’ll all see where that takes us.

    Sincere thanks for blasting this from your bully pulpit. Hopefully we’ll give you ample ammo for a follow up.

    Robbie Vitrano
    Naked Pizza


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