Act II: A Path With No Return
Doyle has a theory on how companies react to the kind of uncertainty Domino’s experienced in 2008 and 2009, a period that certainly wasn’t helped by the economy’s troubles.
“They look at tough times as an opportunity to drive change and to position themselves in a materially better way,” he says. “Weak companies just kind of hunker down in the bad times and hope that the bad times will pass. As we saw results getting tough, we got very aggressive about making changes to this business that we thought were going to set us up for great long-term success.”
Weiner says that the change most companies need to make in order to revitalize their brand is the one right under their nose—but which nobody wants to face up to.
“We knew that certainly we were known for our strength of delivery and service but that our pizza could be improved,” he says. “I knew that when I was interviewed [at Domino’s]. You didn’t have to do the research.”
But Domino’s did do the research—a lot of it. Weiner says that even though a move like changing the recipe of a signature item is risky, every step Domino’s made was “quantitatively proven” by consumer insight. Consumers, the chain would later say in advertisements, had resoundingly told Domino’s that its pizza tasted like cardboard.
Domino’s also gauged franchisees’ opinions before rolling out the new pizza, and the company made sure all were on board with the change.
“We made the new pizza, made the original pizza, put them side by side in boxes, ate them, and scored them, and it was well over 90 percent of franchisees … that chose the new pizza as the better one,” says franchisee Melton, who is also a member of the Franchise Leadership Council at Domino’s.
Finally, after two years in development, the New and Inspired pizza from Domino’s launched in the last week of 2009. The new recipe, which upgraded the crust, sauce, and cheese on the chain’s signature pies, served as the icing on the cake of Domino’s reinvention.
It was also the Hail Mary pass in a game of several moves that the Domino’s team knew had no overtime.
“If you ever read The Art of War, they say the best way to win a war, if the war is fought on an island, is to blow up the bridge,” Weiner says. “Everyone’s fighting for the death, because there’s no retreat.
“When we knew the product was so much better than our old one and the competition’s, we felt like we could go for it. So we blew up the bridge.”
Act III: An Honest Approach
Making a better pizza was one thing, but selling it to the public was a whole other beast.
“The idea is you can’t really say, ‘Hey, we have a new and improved pizza,’ and anyone’s going to really care about it, because the words new and improved are pretty overused from a marketing standpoint,” Weiner says. “We wanted people to reconsider this brand, but what’s the messaging that will get them to reconsider it?”