Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains hundreds of hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses.
Four years ago, Domino’s Pizza shocked the marketing world by describing its old product with words like “cardboard” and “ketchup”—but swearing its pizzas had improved.
The campaign touting a whole new pizza surprised industry skeptics by resulting in a 14 percent growth in sales in one quarter, says Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications for Domino’s Pizza.
What are the lessons for other organizations? If you represent a hospital or a bank, he says, you’re not about to turn over a new leaf by announcing you’ve been misdiagnosing patients or mishandling their money for 50 years.
The takeaway is the importance of openness and learning from your detractors, McIntyre says in the Ragan Training video, “How Domino’s Pizza broke all the rules of traditional marketing to turn its brand around.”
“You almost have no choice but to embrace transparency these days,” McIntyre says.
This video clip is taken from the Ragan Training session, “How Domino’s Pizza broke all the rules of traditional marketing to turn its brand around.”
Here are some more lessons from the pizza people:
At Domino’s, the change didn’t end with new pizzas and a confession of its past culinary sins. It was a new way of doing business. If you announce such a change, it had better be real, McIntyre says, because otherwise the social media world is going to call you on it.
“You no longer own your brand,” he says. “Consumers own your brand.”
Once the new pizza launched, some complained that it didn’t look like the ads, with photos shot by professional food photographers. So Domino’s asked customers to take pictures of the pizzas Domino’s delivered to them, and to post them on social media channels.
The public did so, tweeting and pinning 40,000 images, such as one with a pregnant woman standing behind an open pizza on a table. Written in marker ink on her belly was a cartoon word balloon with the statement, as if coming from the baby: “I want Domino’s pizza.”
But you can’t make everybody happy. One guy posted a picture of a pizza that got mushed in the box, with cheese glued to the inside of the lid.
Domino’s used the image in an ad in which CEO Patrick Doyle said, “This is not acceptable. Bryce in Minnesota, you shouldn’t have to get this from Domino’s.”
Domino’s also gave the guy free pizza for a year.
Open a dialogue on Twitter
Domino’s invited consumers to try the new pizza and tweet about it. Their tweets, no matter what people said (minus profanity) went up on the company site. If you loved it, they posted it. Same thing if you hated it.
Observers “thought we were committing corporate suicide. They thought we were crazy,” McIntyre says.
Instead, it built trust with the public, McIntyre says.
Use Facebook to listen
Domino’s doesn’t use Facebook exclusively to sell, McIntyre says. The platform is also used to gather feedback.
“We use it to have conversations,” he says. “We use it to promote what we think about the brand, and we invite consumers to tell us what they think about the brand.”
Domino’s pizza’s flavor began to decline in the 2000s, when it started cutting a pinch of this and a dash of that, one ingredient at a time, to save money. Say, cheaper cheese or fewer herbs in the sauce.
“Independently, every one of those great ideas added up to a bad idea,” McIntyre says. “When you added them all together, they turned into a product that we were no longer proud of.”
When Domino’s revamped its menu, it was completely candid with the public, airing scathing comments about its old product. But it was the human element of the pitch that won people over—chefs’ expressing dismay about the criticism and excitement about the new product.
The company didn’t just talk to the public. It had to communicate extensively with mom-and-pop franchise owners about why the costs were going up-and why that was going to improve business in the long run.
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