Last Tuesday night, I watched a presentation about a brand that I have followed for over 30 years: Domino’s Pizza. Tim McIntyre, vice president of communications at Domino’s, spoke to a full house at the October meeting of the Michigan Franchise Business Network (FBN). re:group hosts the quarterly meetings as part of our participation in the International Franchise Association (IFA).

I learned that, as a mature franchise concept, Domino’s had lost their way. Research indicated that their product was not competitive, sales were down and something had to change. So, they began to revisit all of their product ingredients in search of a “new, improved” product. Once they created the new pizza, the challenges to launch were many: How do you get system buy-in? How do you communicate the change externally and prompt people to try a pizza they had come to know over decades? And how do you do this in an environment of social media?

Speaking of social media, it was a hoax on YouTube that began Domino’s journey on the the path to painfully open and totally honest corporate communications, first with Domino’s U.S. president, Patrick Doyle, responding to an unfortunate event. This occurred just as they were preparing for the new product launch.

 

Their agency explained that announcing a “new, improved” product was earth shattering in the restaurant business, and that only a fresh approach to breaking through the clutter of traditional advertising would do. Traditionally, advertising presents a polished and positive image and professionally-adjusted food photography. Their solution was to present what they refer to as “the turnaround” of the product in a completely open and authentic manner. In advertising and all communications, actual customers said they did not like the product, actual Dominos staff shared how they changed the product and expressed their ongoing commitment to quality, honesty and openness. It worked. And it was truly unheard of.

And it still works today. They use social media (Facebook, Twitter) at the national and local levels to engage with customers, rather than push out “deals.” The only screening they do is that they do delete profanity and pornography. Domino’s has even asked customers to open the box and take a photo of their pizza dinner for them to potentially use for national advertising.

It was a bold move that Domino’s leadership embraced and it has become integral to the company culture and the brand they nurture and protect. It is a great story, and I thank Tim for sharing it at FBN last week.

Note: Full disclosure; I worked with Domino’s in the early years, producing broadcast and print advertising while at Group 243.

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