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QSR Feature
The Many Acts of Domino’s Pizza

The right messaging, it turned out, was the unbridled truth. Domino’s launched a series of advertisements supporting the new pizza recipe that featured Domino’s customers decrying the old, and employees—including executives like Doyle—admitting that changes needed to be made.

The key to making the marketing strategy of the new pizza recipe successful, Weiner says, was being as open as the brand could be.

“What consumers were looking for was honesty and transparency because nobody was giving it to them at that point,” he says, noting that the public trust in government, banks, and other big corporations had waned.

The self-deprecating ads from Domino’s were supported by a money-back guarantee on the pizza and were followed by advertisements that showed company employees going after previous critics and “holdouts” that had yet to try the new pies.

“There was clearly no Plan B on this,” Doyle says. “You can’t go out with the communication strategy that we did and have that not work. If that doesn’t work, there’s no way to fall back from that. The confidence came from knowing absolutely 100 percent that we had a better pizza.”

Act IV: A Sense of Victory

Domino’s results in the first quarter of 2010 shocked many industry experts. Even Weiner admits he was “pleasantly surprised.”

But Gary Stibel, founder and CEO of the New England Consulting Group, says the numbers are merely a result of Domino’s doing everything right in its marketing efforts to support the new pizza recipe.

“They engaged consumers with disruptive honesty,” Stibel says. “Once they had gotten people’s attention with disruptive honesty, they delivered a meaningful message: We taste better. They didn’t say, ‘We taste better than your favorite pizzeria,’ because they probably don’t. They said, ‘We taste better than we used to,’ which is not that difficult a statement to make.”

Stibel says that what Domino’s did was not revolutionary, but that it was a textbook example of memorable marketing.

“Unfortunately, much of the fast food and foodservice community has convinced itself that the only way to attract consumers is with emotional appeals and humorous, trendy advertising, and cheap, discount pricing,” Stibel says, adding that too much marketing focuses largely on forgettable antics.

Memorable as Domino’s moves may be, Doyle says it will soon be time for the company to move on without new tagged on to every mention of its pizza.

“It’s quickly going to be no longer relevant to consumers what our pizza used to be,” he says. “But will there continue to be news and change from this brand? Absolutely. It’s how you stay relevant with consumers.”

Although the company will soon end the heavy marketing of the new pizza, 2010 certainly won’t represent the final act in the company’s transition.

“There are more chapters in the story that we haven’t told yet—I just obviously can’t tell you about them,” Weiner says. “But there’s more to tell in this story.”

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Sam Oches is QSR’s associate editor.