Dominos brand promise is only a first step

A look at Dominos’ recent foray


Dominos Brand needs to keep defining the space



Stealing Share President & CEO

Dominos Brand
(April 05, 2010) I think it’s quite funny that the advertising industry has been buzzing over the new ad campaign launched by Domino’s Pizza. For those of us who missed it, Domino’s is running a series of ads that are the fast-food equivalent of a mea culpa.

The Washington Post describes the ads thusly: “For sheer corporate candor, it’s tough to beat Domino’s latest delivery. In its new TV commercial and Web video, the pizza chain admits something startling – namely, that its pizza is pretty terrible.”

“Worst excuse for pizza I ever had,” a company executive says grimly, quoting a customer’s comment in one spot. “Totally devoid of flavor.” “Domino’s pizza crust to me is like cardboard,” says a woman in a clip taken from a focus group.

Stealing Market Share for the Dominos Brand

This all brings to mind something I learned many years ago in my lifelong quest to help companies steal market share: Fix the problems you have in best practices before you attempt to influence target audience’s long-term purchasing behavior through an emotional brand intensity. Should Domino’s have run these ads? Absolutely.

They are not alone in this category when it comes to delivering an inferior product. Even in pizza, which seems to be as much a part of the American fiber as the hamburger and hot dog, we buy it often, but that doesn’t mean we think it is good.

The purchase of pizza has become a fallback choice for a meal when nothing has been planned for home cooking or when everyone in the family fails to agree on what they really want. “Let’s get pizza” becomes the mantra.

The Best of the Best

DeLorenzo's Tomato Pies beats the Dominos Pizza BrandThere are exceptions to this rule. Travel to Trenton, N.J., and try to get in the front door at De Lorenzo’s Tomato Pies, and you’ll see that, for a terrific product and an authentic ambience, tomato pies is an event worth the wait. Domino’s is on the right track.

Acknowledge that the product is terrible—so is Papa John’s, Pizza Hut and Little Caesars—and that steps are being taken to correct this best-business- practice failing. Is this message a game changer?

It might be if no one else improves the product from barely edible to superb. But the campaign hints at something that should force the entire restaurant category to pause: Consumers may begin to expect more from any company that promises to feed us beyond the accolade, “I feel full.”

My guess is that Domino’s is just the first domino to fall, so to speak, and that others will soon follow, giving De Lorenzo’s a run for its money.

However, best practices such as quality and goodness are only enough of a brand promise if everyone else in the category decides to still sell cardboard, ketchup and “cheese-food product” masquerading as authentic pizza.

As the Future Unfolds

The game changer will happen when any one of the competitors realizes that a pizza that tastes good and is made from quality ingredients ought to be a table stake—the minimum requirement you need to be in the pizza business. The fact that this currently sounds like a differentiator tells us how lost the category has become.

Dominos Pizza BrandOnce fast food becomes quality fast food from the point of view of the consumer, something else needs to happen. The marketers need to address brand equity and the switching triggers that guide all purchasing decisions.

To uncover those, marketers will need more than a usage and attitudinal study that says our food stinks, our process is slow and our customers are unhappy. No, you need to figure out what is important in their lives. The one that decides to do that will take the market share and the unshakable loyalty of those of us starved forexperience—and, maybe, great pizza.

Tom Dougherty is chief executive and president of the brand development firm, Stealing Share, Inc.

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