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Domino’s and The Cardboard Crust Campaign

August 30, 2010 1 comment

Domino’s, the inventors of pizza delivery, are breaking down barriers once again.

When Domino’s boldly criticized its own pizza on national television, many believed the franchise’s demise was near. Fueled by an ad campaign which condemned their former product, Forbes reported that Domino’s has tallied a profit increase of nearly 100% since the fourth quarter of 2009.

The innovative marketing done by the pizza giant includes TV ads with “actual footage” of consumers claiming Domino’s consisted of cardboard crust as well as ketchup in lieu of tomato sauce. They go on to discuss the complete re-invention of their product’s ingredients, enhancing the crust with garlic butter and improving the sauce by adding basil. Essentially, Domino’s admitted that their product sucked for decades and indirectly insulted the taste of those customers who actually had enjoyed the pizza for that time period.

It took some serious guts to acknowledge as Domino’s was already largely successful regardless of their self-proclaimed failure of a food offering. They were a market leader yet obviously felt there was room to seriously rewrite the way they did business. I can’t think of a bigger advertising gamble in recent years than the one Domino’s took in late 2009. Can you imagine Olive Garden suddenly deciding to say “You know what? Our food is garbage and has been for years. We will now offer an entirely different menu and stop attempting to brainwash you through our unrealistic portrayals of the American consumer. For the millions of people who actually bought our food all along–and actually enjoyed it–the joke’s on you!”

In doing this, Domino’s risked alienation of its loyal consumer base who liked things the way they were. The truth is, Americans hate change. They’re most comfortable in doing what they know best, as evidenced by the millions of U.S. citizens who annually return to Disney World for vacation or the many blue-collar workers who enjoy a Big Mac on their daily lunch break like clockwork. We don’t often step outside the box and try new things, Which is what makes Domino’s recent success such a surprise.

The most intriguing part is that the pizza really doesn’t taste that different. Many people will tell you otherwise because they’ve been made to believe the product now tastes better and are psychologically unable to form an unrestricted opinion. The fact of the matter is Domino’s was never made with the highest quality ingredients, and it still isn’t. A hint of basil here and there isn’t enough to convince me that a significant change has taken place. From my perspective, the company’s past achievements were a direct outcome of product convenience (delivery and price) rather than the quality of the pizza.

Regardless, the campaign has been an unmistakable success. Patrons who never liked the pizza will now give it a second chance while loyal customers will be happy to discover it hasn’t changed all that drastically. The key question going forward is whether or not these new customers will be retained as future buyers. Are these profits a product of one-time purchases or are they a legitimate result of the new and improved Domino’s Pizza?

We will soon find out. But for now, the crust is no longer cardboard. So that’s a start.

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