The Domino’s Effect: Is Being Bad Good For Business?

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.

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11 comments so far. Leave a comment.

  1. John Cavanaugh

    wrote on January 14, 2010 at 8:09 am


    First off, you’re 100% correct. We should all be suspicious about Domino’s new-found realization that their product is perceived as “cardboard.” But my question is whether, given their position and how gullible a marketplace this is, isn’t this wasn’t a pretty savvy move? Regardless of whether what they’re NOW doing to ostensibly improve their product is truly innovative, can they move their market this way. I don’t know if it should, but I’m betting that they can.

    However, you words are true, true true. If you’d like to see my angle on their marketing approach, you can read it here:

    Thanks for your post!


  2. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on January 14, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Hi John,
    I don’t think it was necessarily a savvy move, but I think they just had no choice but to respond this way. The reality for Domino’s was that with the recent YouTube scandal of employees publicly violating their pizzas in disgusting ways, they HAD to respond to this “new” public criticism in some positive way. Having consumers publicly witness the lack of love and respect that the company’s own employees have toward the product and to the consumers, what other choice did they have but to try to act like they care about the product and the customers? I think they were backed into a corner and responded the only way that they could. Maybe it will work for them, I don’t know, but I think the brand has been built and their marketing message is embedded too heavily with their logo (which is also unappetizing for a food company, but that’s a post on its own!) Thanks for stopping by…I’ll be watching how this all plays out.

  3. Wayne Godfrey

    wrote on January 14, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    You might not think this to be a savvy move, but in truth, you and the countless others who are blogging it up, combined with a Colbert Report skit, etc., is creating enough buzz to make it effect, at least in the short term. The concept isn’t new, but then again, nothing in advertising is. The public is gullible, so they’ll probably try Dominos’ again when they want/need that cheap, fast, belly-full pizza… if they ever stopped buying it in the first place. So the campaign will serve an immediate purpose. Certainly screaming; “New! Improved! Tastes Better” isn’t going to work so an agency is relegated to finding a concept that will create buzz. Crispin Porter + Bogusky is well know for creating buzz.

    The real problem here is how long can agencies continue to to recycled concepts with any effectiveness? Banner blindness is a real problem on the web and quite frankly the inundation of logos everywhere are wearing very thin and blindness there is following. Like the media that advertising has for so long supported, they to are facing a new media world into which they are being forced… and change doesn’t come easily. Advertising, like the media, is at a crossroads, but in the meantime, the blogs, social media, etc. are doing a great job in talking up Dominos’ brand.


  4. keir

    wrote on January 14, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Well Cheryl, they did have a choice. Many companies have embraced their faults through social media, and more importantly learned exactly what people think of them. From that, they can more appropriately target their ‘happy’ customers.
    However, in one sense I agree with you and I’ll categorically eat my hat the day I meet a marketer that can put a positive spin on a story about pizza chef’s adding their own special sauce. lol

  5. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on January 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Sure there is buzz about it – some good and some bad, but I guess as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad press (not sure I agree with that though). It is short sighted though. My point is that the Domino’s brand has been well established as a fast, greasy belly filler and I doubt this campaign will change many minds for the long run. Thanks for adding your thoughts on the subject.

  6. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on January 14, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    I guess I was speaking more figuratively when I said they didn’t have a choice. Sure they could’ve ignored what they were hearing, but I think this was a thinly veiled PR response to their ugly YouTube incident. Either way, ignoring customer feedbadk or showing their embarrassingly clueless knowledge about how to make tasty food is not going to make me (and other existing non-customers) want to buy their pizza. Thanks for stopping by…

  7. TerryR

    wrote on January 15, 2010 at 1:05 pm


    You touched a nerve! I feel that a sense of sarcasm and weariness with marketing in general has been building for some time…or perhaps it’s just me. These ads got my attention; but my response was just as jaded as yours. The brand can’t change course now. My gut tells me that on so many levels… brushing the crust with garlic-flavored olive oil? Please!

  8. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on January 15, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Terry -
    I can’t help but sense that this campaign is just that, a campaign. Because of their long history of focusing on cheap and fast along with the reputation of poor quality, it all comes off as less than sincere to me. It is the trend to appear approachable and reactive to consumer needs and they know that. I believe that this campaign was an attempt to repair the damage done from the YouTube incident.

  9. Walter

    wrote on January 17, 2010 at 6:00 am

    I agree with you that they should focus on the quality of their product. But in my observation, they focus more on the psychology of the customers. Perhaps, it worked for them. But of course it won’t be in the long run if they don’t do anything about the taste. :-)

  10. bethany

    wrote on October 16, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    If you took the effort to blog about it… their marketing is working just as it should. Give it a shot. The pizza really does taste better. We all like different tastes, so it is opinion. It’s a franchise. The one by my house is AMAZING. I have been to awful dirty ones. That makes the brand not strong and united. They’re working on it…. let them. Hey they’re just people- big business or not. We all are.

  11. Cheryl Andonian aka Momblebee

    wrote on October 18, 2010 at 4:56 am

    Actually, I did have an opportunity to try their pizza recently at a street fair when they were offering free samples. I tried it because it was free and it tasted no different to me. Bland crust, greasy cheese. Flavor is subjective, no doubt. But there is also no doubt that this was a marketing campaign orchestrated by a large corporation. If there were a dedication to making great pizza, it would have been part of the brand’s promise from the get-go. They already established their promise to the public of cheap and fast. Changing that image completely would involve more than a brush of olive oil.

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