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Can Domino's Turn Around Their Cardboard Reputation?

IMB_DominosPizzaTurnaround1 What would you do if you surveyed your customers and they all said you suck? It may seem like a worst case scenario, but companies are faced with this challenge more often than you would think. It is not easy to hear, and in part it is the reason many companies simply don't survey their customers that often. It is easier to look just at metrics like sales or growth and use those to measure success. After all, why bother to ask customers what they really think if you are making money? The problem with this logic is that it doesn't help you to spot threats to your business and plan for the future. Making money is a temporary state … and one that can be more fragile than you realize.

For Domino's, their business has been built not on the quality of their food but on the promise of their service. Anywhere in America (and many other parts of the world), you can pick up the phone, order food and you will get it delivered to your house in 30 minutes or less. This convenience spurred a growth rate for the brand that made it (at one point) the fastest growing franchise in the world. The only problem was, people thought the pizza tasted like cardboard. This was one of only a few revelations that were revealed through some customer surveys and testing the brand completed.

Usually, the only way I would have known about something like that is by working on the brand or having been part of the surveys. In this case, I know the same way that you might … because Domino's has been featuring these testimonials as part of their new "Pizza Turnaround" advertising campaign:

As someone who has written often about authenticity and personality in business, I love this campaign. It uses real Domino's employees as spokespeople, talks about how much they care about their product (and how hurt they were to hear criticism such as their sauce tasting "like ketchup.") More importantly, it offers a backstory on how the brand is trying to be different and delivers it in a believable way. The microsite they created even features a live Twitter stream of conversations mentioning their new Pizza, including both good AND bad reviews right on their homepage.

IMB_DominosPizzaTurnaround2 While the reviews, which are pulled directly from Twitter, are mixed – the message from Domino's is clear: we listened to our customers, improved our product and now we stand behind it. One recent tweet they featured (unedited) on their homepage said "tried new dominos pizza with the cheesy base, it sucks, too much cheese means a change of shirt and way too sickly."

Whether or not you like their new pizza, you have to appreciate a brand that is willing to stand behind their new product so much that they can allow direct criticism on their own site without feeling the need to shut it down. Despite having some negative reviews, if you look at the conversation both on their Facebook site and on Twitter – the majority of conversations either share a positive review, or an intent to try the new pizza. There are, as usual, a small minority who are pleading to have the old pizza back (which have been met with the mocking suggestion to spread ketchup on the box to recreate the old pizza) – but the new pizza is clearly winning many fans online.

The real lesson to watch for anyone in marketing, though, will be how Domino's weathers the negativity in a campaign like this where they put their customer's thoughts and opinions front and center. It's a bold experiment in actually standing behind your product and letting people have their own opinions about it.  If it works, perhaps we'll see more brands willing to take this approach.

10 thoughts on “Can Domino's Turn Around Their Cardboard Reputation?”

  1. Hi Rohit,
    Great to see you in Vegas, again!

    I have written about Domino’s on The Franchise King Blog in the past. Good marketers. Sub-par product.

    So, does great marketing, especially a pizza franchise using social media marketing as well as Domino’s does, make up for a product that I have not tasted in years?

    Not for this King.

    Now, will I try their new pie? Not sure.

    The Franchise King®
    Joel Libava

  2. The short answer is: yes.

    I saw the video online first and was intrigued by their open acceptance of the criticism. They’ve brought broadcast and online media together in an effective manner – they’ve got people rethinking how they view Domino’s

    The real proof is whether or not this rethink converts to trial. It did for my family. We ordered the 2 medium pizza special and were thoroughly impressed by the taste and overall experience.

    In fact, I had forgotten how robust their online ordering system is. The UI guides you thru the ingredient selection process and shows you a digital version of the pizza. It makes it very easy to customize – dough type, sauce, cheese volume, and extra toppings.

    I give them bonus points for offering an engaging, entertaining Connect4 online game (made by EA) that you can play while your pizza is made and delivered (which is tracked below the game).

    Or you can log-off and wait for the delicious goodness to arrive.

    Whether you like it or not, my family will be eating Domino’s again – even after having sworn it off six months ago.

  3. Rohit:

    According to YouGov BrandIndex’s research that appeared on last Friday, the answer is — yes, big response from men 18 – 49.

    BrandIndex tracks consumer perception to brands on a daily basis.

    The “buzz score” for the brand, men 18 – 49, rocketed them past Pizza Hut and Papa John’s.

    BUZZ: “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, was it positive or negative?

    Brandweek article here:

  4. Nice information on new marketing strategy of a world leading brand, Domino’s pizza. It was quite interesting to watch the video showing how they are openly accepting customers comments. It shows how much they care for their customers.

  5. Domino’s new marketing strategy is interesting and it seems to be working. I know many people who have not eaten Domino’s in a long time that are planning to try their new pizza. I’m curious, however, to see who this strategy plays out long term.

  6. It works for me because of the relatability factor. At some time or another I have said similar things about Domino’s. The fact that they acknowledge their shortcomings and work to improve them gives me a reason to try them again. I think it’s a smart strategy and it sends a message that they are willing to listen and adapt to my wants.

  7. i too feel that there’s a serious lack of reputable companies using social media.Thanks for the details.It was interesting to read about the trend when it comes to moms on social media.Look forward to more such posts..thanks again.

  8. Domino’s is a great example of a company that historically has had a a great product in terms of taste but has really been able to sell simply on low price and reliable, short delivery time. With so many companies interested in social media but at the end of the day hesitant to have any criticism as part of it, it will definitely be interesting to see how this strategy plays out for Dominos. It could be the great case study that fuels this type of much more upfront marketing strategy.

  9. Looks like a gimmick – they aren’t even keeping up their twitter feed on the pizza turnaround website. And their advertorial video is so staged its sad. I think people can tell the difference between hype and genuine voices.

    I mean really, its so hard to make good pizza? Ann Arbor (where they are headquartered) in a big college town and has lots of good pizza places. And none of them are called Dominos.

    I’d give this one a failing grade all around


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In addition to Non-Obvious Thinking, Rohit is the author of 10 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

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