The past few weeks we’ve talked about branding yourself as a trusted industry resource and about the how the rise of consumer reviews has made your brand fans (and non-fans!) an extension of your marketing department. As I mentioned last week, the rise of social media has ushered in a new, instant, and very public way to broadcast one’s opinion of a product or brand.
The smart brands have embraced this wholly – allowing a “Reviews” tab on their Facebook pages, using Twitter to engage with unhappy users, actively inviting reviews on Yelp and Amazon, etc. Today’s plugged-in, digital consumers see the brands that make their reviews or complaints private as untrustworthy, hiding something. This phenomenon expands into every marketing avenue as well – take Domino’s, for example.
You may recall Domino’s Turnaround Campaign, groundbreaking in its public self-criticism. Let’s face it – when you see someone on TV announcing that their product is faulty or not up to standards in some way, it’s almost certainly because they were forced into that position through some scandalous incident. (Think BP’s oil disaster, Toyota’s Prius recall, the Yaz lawsuit, etc.) However: Domino’s did something radical, and it did it without any kind of safety net. By proclaiming its product to be, essentially, crap, there was no going back. The option to revert back to the (now admittedly not-good-enough) original product would doom the brand entirely. Granted, Domino’s “…took 18 months and spent tens of millions of dollars developing its new product. They waited until the product was ready…” before launching the marketing campaign. This quote, from Adam Toporek’s piece for Spin Sucks, outlines the first rule of branding: Research, research, research.
Once the product was up to par (determined by a variety of taste tests), Domino’s went for the throat – its own throat. “Starring Actual Domino’s Employees” and “Inspired By Our Harshest Critics,” Domino’s “The Pizza Turnaround” Documentary is an eye-opener.
I, personally, never liked Domino’s pizza and I found myself nodding as I watched the video. Cardboard crust? Yup. Sauce that tastes like ketchup? Sure, if you want to insult ketchup. “Worst excuse for pizza I’ve ever had”? Well, that person obviously hasn’t had day-old Totino’s, but OK, maybe. While I agree with most of the complaints, though, it’s hard to watch the faces of the Domino’s team members, especially the chefs. And I kept wondering…how? How could a product that everyone basically accepts as sub-par be one of the biggest brands in its industry? Apparently, Domino’s was ready to ask itself that very question.
With the rise of better quality frozen pizzas, more chain pizza restaurants, and more privately owned smaller pizza places, Domino’s seemed to realize that even though it had a not-insubstantial piece of the pizza-revenue pie (ahem…), changes were already happening. As its social media outlets and focus groups continued to return negative ratings, it was time to revisit their product.
Already a recognized and successful brand in a very established industry, Domino’s took the kind of risk many brands only dream about, and it worked brilliantly.
There are two important things to take away from this:
1. Talk about your brand will continue to happen online whether or not you are involved. Choose not to be involved, and you risk alienating both your base as well as the chance to grow your brand. But if you take advantage of the opportunity to engage with your consumers in these outlets, you will reap the benefits.
2. If you’re going to make a big change to your established brand, ensure you’ve done all possible research and perfect your updated product before launching your new, snazzy marketing campaign.
And remember: Combining a variety of marketing avenues can be a recipe for success. Domino’s Turnaround campaign integrated PR with traditional advertising and social media to create a push that increased its bottom line while making its name buzz again. For positive, very creative, and tangible reasons.