Domino’s: “Pizza Turnaround” Adnalysis

BACKGROUND

Few campaigns of 2010 were as controversial as Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s “Pizza Turnaround” campaign for Domino’s Pizza. The ads feature Domino’s executives admitting to the “cardboard” and “disgusting” quality of their pizza and their pledge to change it.

Most in the marketing community were mystified as to why Domino’s would expose the apparent awful quality of their pizza, especially as the #2 player in the pizza market and $1.2 billion in 2009 sales. “Someone likes it,” brand consultant Laura Ries quipped.

Such critcs argue that without a crisis of pizza quality, it wasn’t necessary for Domino’s to showcase its flaws and poor focus group responses. Most arguments pointed out that Domino’s had earned a strong position in the market (and the mind of the pizza eater) as a delivery option and was not purchased for its quality. Consumers in need of premiere quality would purchase from local pizza chains. In other words, as long as Domino’s pizza quality was of a certain threshold, no one cared how good the pizza was.

Despite luke warm reactions (at best) from marketing people, Domino’s sales shot up 14% in the first quarter of the campaign and have risen steadily since. The campaign was even nominated for the prestigious Cannes Lion Award.  The campaign recieved publicity on The Colbert Report, Conan O’Brien and Mad Money, the later probably helping US stock prices jump over 50% in the months following the campaign launch. While more supporters have jumped on board, offering that the ultra-transparency, honesty, and social media efforts transcend the breach in traditional marketing strategy, many still have doubts about the long-term effects of the campaign on the brand.

So what gives? Has the “Pizza Turnaround” shown that in this new era of consumer suspicion, new rules of play are required? Or has the uptick in sales been more of a curiosity of consumers and has the long-term viability of the brand been sacrificed by this campaign?

Sounds like the perfect question for our unique Adnalysis framework to answer.

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CAMPAIGN OBJECTIVES:

 Communication Objective Liking (of the pizza and Domino’s the company). See slide 10 of link.

  • The initial campaign video ends with Domino’s heading to the home of a previous dissatisfied customer with a pie of its new pizza to see if she enjoys the new effort better. Note that they didn’t show up with a pie from Papa John’s and Pizza Hut as well nor did they launch a national taste test. Domino’s simply wants to make America likes its product more.

Advertising Positioning = “Domino’s Pizza transformed its pizza because its customers called for it and Domino’s is a company that listens to its customers.” 

  • Previous Belief/Action = When I want delivery, I will choose whatever brand I habitually choose, because they are all the same/Choose Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, or Dominos.
  • Desired Belief/Action = I like Domino’s because they aren’t a soulless corporation and they listened to their customers and improved their products/ Choose Domino’s Pizza.

Target= Their harshest critics.

  • Very unusual. Marketing theory suggests that to build a strong brand, the brand should focus on its target who will be receptive to the brand’s message and forget about those who will not. In this case, they not only built a campaign directed at those people who have stated they don’t like the product, but featured them in the campaign. 

Insight= Consumers have become increasingly suspicious of commercials and selective in their attention to them. This campaign will grab attentiona because of its unusual transparency and honesty. And/or Negative feedback [in any area of life] can be used as a roadmap to improvement.

 CAMPAIGN GRADES:

Positioning Statement= A-

  • When the client presents a ho-hum marketing objective like “new and improved,” the positioning statement become very important. CP+B nailed it. Not only did they let people know that the pizza had changed in a shocking way, they portrayed the Domino’s as a company in a very positive light. The bland underlying strategy is all that keeps this from an A.

Target = B

  •  Interesting and unique. Risky target considering the fact that some people definitely enjoyed the product (to the tune of $1 billion+ in sales). The positioning statement lent itself to this focused target and I like the fact that they took the risk and stuck with a focused group as opposed to sending out another boring “new and improved” campaign to everyone. Just how many people did they turn off by the change? Was there a large group with enough loyalty to care about the change? Without market research info its hard to know.
  • Is quality driving the purchase decision of delivery pizza? Coke and McDonald’s are historic losers in blind taste tests, but both still dominate their market. While Domino’s, Pizza Hut, and Papa John’s are on the consumer’s minds when they need to quickly feed a roomful of pizza, something tells me that the mind shifts to an entirely different place when gourmet ingredients are required. Domino’s may be trying in vain to poke its head into that conversation.

Leverageability of Insight = A

  • No one else is doing this. Consumers are undoubtedly less trusting of marketing than ever before, a by product of the myriad messages they are bombared with every day. While every good marketer knows this, few to my knowledge (Zappos.com being another) has used it in such a believable way. Instead of telling consumers that quality or customer satisfaction is a priority, they showed us by overhauling their entire operations. And even without the knowledge that Domino’s spent two years and $2 million dollars reformulating its pizza, there is something very real and believeable about this campaign.
  • The best insights dig down to a human emotion or feeling. Domino’s does this by explicitly telling us how its company used negative feedback as a inspiration to improve.

Bonus Points

  • Engaging. Asking customers to send in real pictures of their pizza while poking fun at the fake pizza in ads from competitors was on message and fun.
  • Simple, honest message is leverageable in virtually all media.               

  Adnalysis

The more I look into the campaign, the more I really like it. My first reaction was bewilderment as to why Domino’s would a) tell the world how much people hate their products and b) focus on a product attribute (taste/quality) that is not driving purchases in its industry. But Domino’s/CP+B was smarter than that. This was not a “functional” campaign, in which Domino’s pizzas are showcased side-by-side others for comparison or in which quantatative metrics are measured for improvement. The campaign leverages the suspicion of today’s consumer towards both advertising and large corporations. Domino’s knows that suspicion is out there and uses it as an opportunity to suprise the public. 

An example of a campaign that probably would have bombed (if it had miraculously made it out of the agency) 20 years ago, but one whose success exemplifies the changing tides in the world today. Adnalysis grade: A-.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

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