The past decade has seen some great public relations campaigns, particularly in the for-profit realm.
Doritos knocked it out of the park when it “crashed” the Super Bowl, Tourism Queensland put its island on the map when it created The Best Job in the World, and Old Spice reignited its stodgy brand by convincing women that buying their grandfather’s deodorant will give their husbands six-pack abs. (Testimonial from my wife: “Old Spice is full of crap.”)
To me, however, the Domino’s turnaround is the most brilliant PR campaign in recent memory.
In the midst of a recession, in a hyper-competitive and mature industry, Domino’s completely realigned the perception of its product and its brand while generating measurable financial results for its stakeholders. And it did so through an innovative marketing campaign that seamlessly integrated traditional advertising, social media, and public relations.
Eleven Reasons Domino’s Turnaround Campaign Worked
- Strategic planning. The company was thorough and patient. They took 18 months and spent tens of millions of dollars developing its new product. They waited until the product was ready before Crispin Porter & Bogusky began creating the campaign.
- Benchmark for readiness. Their CEO, Patrick Doyle, stated their mission was to “create a better tasting pizza than anyone in the category. Period.” Benchmark: It was time to go live when they beat their competition in taste tests.
- Focused, simple messaging. Our old product was bad, Domino’s is a transparent organization that listens to its customers, and our new product is awesome. That simple… and that effective.
- Calculated risk. Doyle admits he was hesitant about the negative messaging. They did thorough testing before coming up with the right balance of positive and negative in the Turnaround Campaign.
- Commitment to its message and strategy. The company burned its bridges, boats, and boxes when it launched the Pizza Turnaround. The company so thoroughly trashed its old product that forward was its only possibility. Falling back to “Domino’s Classic” was not an option.
- Integrated marketing and PR. All of the campaigns mentioned above blended what I would call the three legs of the modern marketing stool: Traditional advertising, public relations, and online/social. The Turnaround Campaign did not approach public relations in isolation and made sure all campaign components supported its core messages.
- Remembered internal PR. They respected the fact that it would need buy-in from a large and diverse network of franchisees and employees to succeed, and it focused on internal PR as well.
- Attacked the competition’s strengths. While rebranding its product and company, they went straight after the long-touted competitive advantage of Papa John’s: Better ingredients and taste.
- On the ground tactics. They knew that getting the product into consumers’ mouths was the key to success, so it used good, old-fashioned discounting to incentivize customers to try the new product.
- Momentum and follow-up. They followed the Pizza Turnaround with the Pizza Holdouts, the Show Us Your Pizza, and the Behind the Pizza campaigns, all campaigns that reinforced the company’s original messages of product quality and corporate transparency.
- Originality and the X Factor. Let’s face it, much of the publicity they generated stemmed from being first national consumer brand to base a campaign around “we stunk; now we don’t.” It was original, edgy, and probably can’t be done again with the same effect.
Spin Sucks, But The New Domino’s Pizza Doesn’t
In the end, it is fitting to tell the story of the Domino’s turnaround on Spin Sucks, because the most important element of the campaign’s success was simple: It told the truth about the old product, and the new.
Domino’s took a long time developing its new pizza because it knew it would be risking the future of the company on its quality. No matter how authentic Domino’s story, no matter how creative its marketing campaign, it would have all fallen flat had the new product not lived up to the hype.
The Domino’s turnaround is one of the great marketing and PR stories of our time. It was unique, widespread, and told a story that resonated with consumers. Most importantly, it achieved measurable business results for the company.
While some parts of the campaign can never be replicated, other parts provide valuable lessons on the proper way PR can function as a vital component of a comprehensive marketing campaign.
Adam Toporek is the owner of IntenseFence Management Solutions and blogs about small business and franchising. He is from the South and understands that he is grossly underqualified to discuss pizza with a bunch of folks from Chicago.