Domino’s Pizza has recently launched a new TV ad campaign which not only announces attempts to improve the quality of their pizzas, but incorporates the negative feedback from consumers about their product. Now, I know that transparency, listening to your customers, engaging with them and responding to their needs and complaints head on is the hip thing for big business to do in this age of social media interaction, but the fact that Domino’s Pizza tastes awful is not really a new revelation.
The thing that kills me here is that this piece was presumably shot in a test kitchen somewhere deep in the bowels of Domino’s corporate headquarters in Michigan. This kitchen is teeming with chefs in white garb scurrying around doing their important work of trying to make Domino’s pizza taste good. Is this test kitchen something new? Do these chefs not have taste buds? Have they never taken a bite of their own product? I find it ridiculous that Domino’s is presenting this bad food issue as a revelation. “Shocking,” as the head chef says. What I find shocking is that a trained chef is so shocked that people think their pizza tastes bad, and that they needed a focus group to figure that out. This campaign, instead of instilling confidence in their abilities, demonstrates just how clueless they are about food.
This company has been around since the late ’60s. It’s common knowledge on the street that Domino’s Pizza isn’t bought for its great taste. The reason people buy it in spite of its lackluster taste, is because it’s convenient, fast and cheap. That’s what they have established as the Domino’s brand. For years the message was all about the price and the speed at which your pizza would arrive at your door. There have been several traffic accidents with personal injury and death to drive that fact home. Domino’s has created a fast food pizza chain, not a gourmet pizza chain, and if the intent is to reinvent the brand now, then I think they have a nearly impossible challenge. It may be a little too late to try to convince consumers that Domino’s is anything more than a cheap greasy pizza that will be delivered to their homes quickly.
The irony here is that the premise of the campaign seems to be that consumers are supposed to feel good that Domino’s cares what they have to say, but if they made good pizza to begin with, then there would be no point to the campaign. Adding garlic and herbs to the sauce, earth shattering! Brushing the crust with olive oil, genius! Using aromatic cheese, innovative! Pizza is pretty basic: good dough, good sauce, good cheese, fresh toppings and some herbs = good pizza. This isn’t rocket science, just common sense: If you make food, then it should taste good.
The big lesson here for a business, whatever it is, should be that it should be the best it can be from the get go. Know what your mission is, know what your priorities and goals are and create your business model to achieve those goals, and yes, make sure your product is good. Understand the brand that you want to build, because once it’s built, it’s pretty difficult to change gears and turn it into something different. There is a learning curve when building brands and along the way adjustments need to be made, but there’s no excuse for waiting nearly 50 years to realize that your product stinks. If this truly was a concern for the brand, then action should have and would have been taken long ago. The priority for the brand clearly has always been low price and fast delivery.
Although some people seem to be lauding Domino’s for their new candid approach to quality control, they have not converted me. I don’t believe that the “chefs,” given their shock, have the ability to know the difference between good and bad, and I don’t understand why it took a food company so long to figure out that their food doesn’t taste good. Instead of creating confidence in the brand, it demonstrates their lack of understanding of their own market and their own products. It will be interesting to see if they can convert the masses on this one.