Categories: BrandingCase StudiesLauraPositioning

Domino’s Should Apologize

knows the rule. When you do something wrong, you say you are sorry. As a society
we love to scold but we also love to forgive. And the simple act of just “saying”
sorry goes a long way in righting many wrongs.

how, when and why you say you are sorry also matters.

it too often and nobody will believe you anymore. Detroit has been begging for
forgiveness for decades.

it with advertising instead of PR and it looks phony. JetBlue ran full-page ads
saying it was embarrassed and sorry for holding passengers over six hours with
no water on runways during an ice storm. Yeah, right.

it when you don’t have to and you create guilt where it may not have existed
before. Domino’s current ads do just that. Domino’s goes out of its way to portray
its guilt and lack of action for decades. And in the process mocks the stupidity
of its customer base.

its site, Pizza Turnaround
Domino’s proudly asks and answers: “Did we actually face our critics and
reinvent our pizza from the crust up? OH YES WE DID.”

I say, OH NO YOU DIDN’T! The lack of brand and customer respect is astonishing.

a display of contradictions,  Domino’s admits
it has been producing a horrible product for the past 40 years, devoid of
flavor, taste, aroma and even “real” ingredients. Yet, they also brag about the
obvious success of the brand.

is the world’s #2 pizza chain with sales of $1.4 billion and almost 9,000 locations
in more than 60 countries (5,000 of which are in the United States.) It must be
some kind of miracle that a company could sell $1.4 billion worth of such a disguising
product given the stiff competition. Somebody obviously liked the pizza.

a brand faces a crisis, there is no doubt that an immediate public apology is
best. During a crisis the flood of negative stories need to be countered with
the sincere voice of the brand giving an open, honest, direct apology. Tiger
Woods should have immediately apologized to his fans, his sponsors, and his wife.
His silence cemented his guilt and lack of remorse.

Domino’s is facing no immediate crisis on taste. There are no cardboard pizza protests
or processed cheese boycotts in the headlines.

the “taste” battle isn’t always even important. Many leading brands don’t win
any taste challenges. McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Starbucks to name a few.

course back in the spring of 2009, Domino’s did face a very real crisis when
two idiots working in a North Carolina store posted vile and juvenile sandwich shenanigans
on YouTube. Domino’s did the right thing by striking back with a message from
CEO Patrick Doyle. It would have been better if his message was not
pre-recorded, if Patrick had more television presence and if Domino’s had released
it sooner. But hey, they tried.

in this case, Domino’s took decades of customer criticism presented a federal
case against itself creating its own media firestorm.

reminds me of the commercials that launched New Coke. In the ads, Coca-Cola
announced that the “Real Thing,” the most powerful brand in the world, wasn’t actually
very tasty. So Coca-Cola was discontinuing it in favor of New Coke. Nobody said
that the people running companies were always very smart. New Coke has gone
down in history as one of the worst management decisions ever.

“New” Domino’s might be a similar case. The worst thing you can do to an iconic
brand is enact radical change. New Coke and the disastrous Tropicana repackaging
show us that change (even positive change) is most often greeted with anger and
resentment by the public and especially by loyal fans.

don’t want different. Customers don’t want to be surprised. As Holiday Inn used
to say, “the best surprise is no surprise.” That is what strong brands deliver.
No surprises. The same thing, the same look, time after time.

doesn’t mean that a brand has to remain exactly the same forever. But it does
mean that brands need to change very, very slowly and subtly. Coca-Cola has
changed its original formula several times, but nobody notices. UPS has updated
it logo several times, but nobody notices.

Domino’s needed to work on its quality, consistency, flavor and taste. But not
all at once. Even worse than doing it all at once is the fact that Domino’s launched
a massive television campaign and internet site to promote that the pizza has
really sucked all these years.

was Domino’s successful in the first place? From watching the current ads, you
would think it was because they got lucky and had stupid customers who had no
taste in pizza and who were too lazy to look up another pizza place’s phone
number. Wrong.

was successful because it pioneered a new category in the mind. Domino’s focus
on “delivery” allowed it to do delivery faster and cheaper than the
competition. Domino’s burned its delivery focus into the mind with its simple
and specific “30 minutes or its free” slogan.

reality is that Domino’s real competition is not Pizza Hut or Papa John’s. The
real competition of all the chains are the local pizzerias that still make up
the bulk of the pizza market, only 35% of the market belongs to the big
national brands. How are local brands different? Local brands emphasis local
flavors and tastes.

build a brand by being the opposite of the competition. To build an international
chain, Domino’s pizza needed to a simple taste that everyone would enjoy. So Domino’s
was rather bland on purpose.

        And the truth is that many customers actually
prefer a bland experience. It’s why kids like McDonald’s hamburgers, they are
bland. And it’s why McDonald’s is the world’s largest restaurant chain.

Domino’s is currently doing to one of the world’s greatest brands is criminal. Domino’s
definitely owes us all an apology, but not for the taste of its pizza. Domino’s
needs to apologize for its foolish brand strategy.

Laura Ries :

View Comments (19)

  • I agree in general, but the line, "Sure, Domino’s needed to work on its quality, consistency, flavor and taste. But not all at once." is the dumbest thing I've ever read.

  • Laura, let me agree with many here. The hurled conclusions you've presented in the above rant leave me scratching my head.
    Dominos wasn't facing a crisis. No controversy over their quality. They simply decided to make a better product - and tell you about it. Like Starbucks shutting down for a day to retrain their staffs across the country, they brought our attention to their attention to quality. As #2 nationwide, they didn't have a problem - they just had a mission to surpass expectations.
    Dominos is a giant. They compete against other giants as well as small, artisan shops. They can't beat the artisans at premium quality because that's not the business they're in - they are in the business of supply chain optimization, not pepperoni. This shouldn't be a shock to anyone either.
    This is excellent work. Good for Dominos. Good on their CEO for doing what good CEO's do.
    Go talk to the man and ask him the rationale behind the campaign, the degree of satisfaction or dissatisfaction over quality that led to this initiative. You'll learn a lot.
    S. Denny

  • Sorry Laura,
    Yeah, this may be some foodie equivalent of greenwashing but it did a pretty good job of changing my perceptions 180 degrees. Something that (If I recall correctly) is a pretty risky thing to try with a brand.
    All the best,

  • Laura,
    I agree that pointing out negatives in part of your brand line doesn't make sense. If their pizza is so bad and they had to change EVERYTHING, how does that extend to the ingredients they put in their sandwiches?
    I also think that Pepsi's "Throwback" campaign is laced with some of the same problems.

  • i would like to see how the recipe for there pizza has changed over the years. the cardboard position didnt occur overnight. dominos should take their customer back to the beginning. tell the brand story, talk about the original recipe (if they must). they dont have the time, meaning the customers attention span, to convince people of how great the new pizza is. confused minds do not buy.

  • Sorry Laura but I couldn't disagree more with your stance. The campaign was developed by Crispin Porter and Bogusky for those who were wondering. Domino's campaign is a perfect example of building a relationship with their customers. While other chains like McDonald's show no transparency, Dominoes is showing that they actually care about what people think. And instead of lying to us and claiming their products are made with decent ingredients, they are actually DOING what they claim and making their product with better ingredients. What's not to like about a company actively trying to make their product better? Read "Baked In" I think you will have a better understanding of their marketing strategy.

  • Hi Laura, I agree. I also believe that Domino’s should focus on the pizza and less on expanding their menu of offerings… After all they are Domino’s Pizza. The last time I ate at Domino’s I tried their Philly Cheese-steak sandwich. I ordered it with an open mind… but came to the conclusion that I should stick with Philly Connection for that type of food. Who by the way doesn’t serve pizza.