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Is The Domino's Rebrand Too Honest?

Posted by Abe Sauer on January 5, 2010 02:42 PM

Here's something you don't see very often: a brand outright admitting that its product is crummy. Or, at least, that its product was crummy.

Domino's Pizza's new rebranding campaign openly admits that the brand has become known for sub-par pizza. The campaign also promises to do something about it. From a branding perspective, the transparency is praiseworthy and, well, a little shocking. Historically, and usually with dire consequences, brands have been reluctant to publically address negative news. So good for Domino's for having the confidence and self-awareness to deal with an unwelcome situation. But is being candid enough?

"Did we actually face our critics and reinvent our pizza from the crust up? Oh yes we did." That's the message Domino's is selling on the brand's new microsite Pizzaturnaround.com and in ads running widely on TV. The campaign features employees of Domino's -- from the kitchen floor to executive levels -- lamenting consumer criticism of their former product and promising to do better.

It remains to be seen if consumers are buying into the brand's new pizza recipe, or its updated messaging. Some critics insist that simply dumping a bunch of spices into the sauce is not "reinventing" a pizza. Others wonder to what extent Domino's is actually able to upgrade its pizza. As we've noted before on brandchannel, the realities of the pizza business are brutal where profit margins often determine quality.

Furthermore, Domino's -- in the spirit of upholding the brand's policy of transparency -- is hosting Twitter feeds on its site, including brutally honest posts such as this one:

"@dominos #newpizza Dumping handfuls of hot pepper into the sauce does NOT make it tastier, just more painful to eat. Won't be back. by legotech 8 hrs, 56 mins ago"

Is this level of openness admirable? Sure. Is it stupid? Perhaps.

Also, if the Domino's makeover is a flop, can it be construed as a sign that honest rebranding campaigns are doomed to fail?


Carole Hicks United States says:

I don't think there's such thing as "too honest".  I think women (who represent 80% of the buying power and brand selection in this country) are going to love it.  Just my prediction.

January 5, 2010 05:02 PM #

Andreas Duess Canada says:

It all depends on whether or not they will be able to get the product right. If they do, then all will be well, if not then the public slamming will continue.

The question "Also, if the Domino's makeover is a flop, can it be construed as a sign that honest rebranding campaigns are doomed to fail?" makes me wonder whether Abe hasn't understood that times are a-changing everywhere or if he's trying to put the cat amongst the pigeons with a facetious argument.

Consumer power expressed through social media is here to stay, no matter how much traditional advertising would wish it to be otherwise - putting your head in the sand and hoping that this too shall pass is not an option anymore. Today, brands have no choice but to be honest. If they're not, they will be pillared until they change their way.

The first step towards recovery is the acknowledgement that you have a problem. Domino is doing that and that's a good thing. Now they need to follow through and make the product remarkable and that's the hard part.

January 6, 2010 06:11 AM #

Roger Stone United Kingdom says:

If the Domino's makeover fails, it will not be a sign that honest rebranding campaigns are doomed to fail but more likely that their new pizza does not live up to the new brand promise

January 6, 2010 06:12 AM #

Robbie Vitrano United States says:

Roger Roger.  Reinvention would be a pizza that leverages the pervasive presence and dare I say modern cultural need of fast food to do good instead of harm.  Reinvention is moving from a highly processed carb, high fructose corn syrup/sugar and trans fat laden twinkified food contributing to the epidemic of obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Crohn's and accordingly the unsustainable cost of healthcare ($7900/person U.S., expected to double in 5 years, outpacing inflation) to a pizza made from real food, that tastes great and is nutritionally sound.  It's possible, so we should.  Domino's is betting the farm that people don't care.  I hope for eveyone's sake they're wrong.  

January 6, 2010 06:40 AM #

Dennis Moons Belgium says:

Pretty bold statement to say that your own product sucks. A marketing director saying that they had to start all over with new recipes because they old one were lacking doesn't give me a good feeling.

January 6, 2010 06:43 AM #

E. Scott Denison United States says:

Frankly, the product could not possibly have been so bad to merit an "all the chips on the table" bet like this. I think this strategy is crazy. What's next if this attempt fails? What got them to this point is far deeper than a perceived "crummy" product. Domino's built their reputation on convenience and reliability and the idea of having restaurant pizza at home. To me, that's still valid. Perceptions are about setting and meeting expectations seamlessly and flawlessly.  The better pizza issue is un-winnable — everyone will always have a taste preference. What will resonate with customers is how they feel about the brand experience. Integrity is great, but there are other ways to be a stand-up company. Start by "delivering" on the brand promise.

January 6, 2010 08:47 AM #

Nic Jones United Kingdom says:

I agree with Roger. The product will define the success of the campaign.
Honesty is certainly the best policy for the brand, but it needs the product, staff and service to be right up there for this to succeed in sales.
For the future we will be seeing many more brands being honest and therefore "ethical". There is no need to hide what you are and stand for. Using Twitter requires an openness to gain trust.
Good on Dominoes for going down this route.

January 6, 2010 09:44 AM #

Troy McQuillen United States says:

Firstly, Domino's is not saying anything new. Duh. They know their product has a bad rep, so this video is somewhat embarrassing as they attempt to look "surprised" by all the comments. Who is suppose to believe that this "pseudo" focus group was actually "revealing" something new? So their "transparent", high production value video shown here (which was very planned, rehearsed, lit, sound balanced, etc.) is just marketing fodder. Are the chefs really "shocked and hurt"...they developed the crap? Like Burger King who is hiding their bad food behind fun advertising, Dominos just has to respect the consumer and stop making crap. Domino's has had this cardboard stigma for almost 20 years!!! C'mon...This whole conversation is orchestrated by an agency to get you all talking, evaluating, watching, etc. But, as I said before, when the snot-nose teenager delivery boy in his annoying import car zooms down our main street, with is stereo rattling the windows of every building he passes, Domino sign a-blazing on his roof, just to deliver cardboard and coagulated sauce, there's no brand strategy there...just schlepping bad pizza. Make good pizza and have it delivered by a decent human being, and I'll buy some more. Brilliant!!!

January 6, 2010 09:55 AM #

Robert Wheatley United States says:

Honesty and openness is the precursor to better brand relationships in the age of consumer control. Transparency is not a tactic any longer. It's simply a reality because anything that can be known, will be known. Brands can no longer operate behind a curtain. Authentic brands are unafraid of admitting mistakes and taking ownership of shortfalls. The key ingredient here is the equally important table stake of quality and taste. Thus Dominoes draws a line in the sand with respect to reinvention... and this requires delivery of another sort: demonstrable improvements in ingredients and taste. If I were them I would be working 24/7 to validate the improvements thru outside respected influencers in the food world. This sort of "proof" can be powerful. Just did a post on Dominoes here: www.wheatleytimmons.com/.../dominos-delivers-big-social

January 6, 2010 10:18 AM #

Nic Jones United Kingdom says:

Well said Robert. Agree with you.
Couldn't go through the link to your blog however. Could you tweet the link to @jammyrascals?

January 6, 2010 11:44 AM #

Debra Norkevicus United States says:

I have tried your pizza one time and it was horrible. The sauce had no taste and the crust was dry and hard , and had no taste. Would like to try the new pizza before I change my mind about Domino's having good pizza.

January 6, 2010 11:58 AM #

Ian Morris United Kingdom says:

I love this kind of honesty from brands. And it is becoming more and more expected by consumers too. I really admire Domino's branding team for doing this and hope it succeeds, although I guess, as mentioned above, it really does depend on whether the 'amazing new product' is as good as they say it is.

January 6, 2010 01:33 PM #

Abe Sauer United States says:

I would just like to add Stephen Colbert's take on this:

January 7, 2010 12:21 PM #

T8 to T5 adapter Kits People's Republic of China says:

It is the domino.

April 28, 2010 01:49 AM #

Comments are closed

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