Learning from Crisis: Domino’s Makes the Right Social Media Moves

Domino’s may just go from being considered (but not added) for our Social Media Hall of Shame to social media rock star fame. You might remember that back in April, 2009 a couple of immature Domino’s employees made a video of themselves doing horrible things to (apparent) customer pizzas. The pair was charged with delivering prohibited foods, the media went wild, the company’s sales dropped 3 percent, and the franchise location where the video was made went out of business five months later.

Domino's Gross Video

That the company delayed in handling the crisis with an old-media, delayed-reaction (48 hours), press-releasey response is odd because back in 2008, they pioneered a wonderful interactive application: the real-time Pizza Tracker. When you order a Domino’s pizza online, you can watch the progress via a thermometer graph as your pizza is prepared, baked, checked for quality and delivered.

Domino's Pizza Tracker Status Screen

In a truly savvy move, Domino’s includes the names of the actual employees working to get you your pizza. Unbelievable! When we ordered a pizza recently (for the first time in many years), you could even skin the site using six different themes from Hair Metal to Romance Novel; we chose the tropical theme (it being winter in Minnesota and all). And we got into rooting for the employees – “Go Bob! Check that pizza!” – and greeted the delivery guy by name when the pizza showed up (within 30 minutes).

Even more important than this real-time – the company claims the status is updated within 40 seconds – interactivity: The Pizza Tracker page includes a panel for feedback, entitled Help Us Get Better. One question sets Domino’s expectation for customer satisfaction: “We want your ordering experience to rock. How was it?”

Domino's Pizza Tracker Survey

So despite the fact that creating the Pizza Tracker indicates Domino’s understood a lot about digital media, the company did not handle the gross videos particularly well. But there was a silver lining to the crisis.

Combined with ranking last in a 2009 survey of consumer taste preferences among national chains, the incident caused Domino’s to reevaluate the product they were selling. In numerous focus groups, consumers indicated that Domino’s was producing a low-quality, unappealing product. The company needed to do some soul searching.

In an act of extremely brand bravery, they decided to own up to their shortcomings and even – the horror! – broadcast them. They entirely remade their product line, answering the criticisms uncovered in their research, and then, in December 2009, made a series of commercials featuring company employees discussing the bad qualities of their former product – cardboard crust, sauce that tastes like ketchup – and explaining how they had changed.

In mid-2011, Dominos posted a five-minute documentary online (created by CP+ B agency) called Pizza Turnaround and flanked it with uncensored tweets. In the video, Dominos employees react emotionally to the negative remarks about their food, and they show their passion for their product (following our dictate to Be a Person).

The company then sent a camera crew along with their head chefs to knock on the doors of their worst critics to engage them in conversation, and posted these visits online. One critic, obviously uncomfortable at being engaged on his front stoop, said, “I didn’t know you were listening.”

The chefs gave the critics a taste of the new pizza, eliciting at least one “Oh my God, that’s delicious” response. The media loved it. Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert quipped, “It takes alpha meatballs to stand up and say, ‘America, we suck.’” The immediate result: a sales gain of 14 percent, doubled profits, and a 44 percent rise in the company’s share price.

Wow! Domino’s went from a stiff and corporate response to the gross pizza video disaster to an intimate campaign to let people know the company had listened to their concerns and changed their product. They took the opportunity presented by a negative experience to learn how to use social media to tell the company’s – and its employees’ – story.

Some enterprises might be uncomfortable opening the kimono like Domino’s did. Could yours really take the things that people really hate about your products, publicize them, publicly fix them, then ask customers to give real-time feedback on your Website? Maybe? Check the results we cited: a sales gain of 14 percent, doubled profits, and a 44 percent rise in the company’s share price.

Would that work for your company?

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3 Comments on “Learning from Crisis: Domino’s Makes the Right Social Media Moves

  1. This does a great job summing up what Dominos went through to get to where they are now. My family and I used to shun their pizza for taste/quality reasons. We are huge Dominos fans today and are happy with all the new pizzas as well as the on-line component to ordering/customer service. It’s great and I hope they continue on the path.