Success by the Slice: Does Being “Flawsome” Work For Domino’s?

PhotobucketPerfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Just ask the folks at Domino’s Pizza.  In 2009, the company’s pizza came in last in a national taste test—tying with Chuck E. Cheese, an eatery known more for the presence of video games and children’s amusements than anything on the menu.  At that point, (and after bringing on a new CEO, Patrick Doyle) Domino’s launched a new marketing campaign, admitting that they weren’t perfect.

In fact, they were pretty far from perfect.  This campaign featured images of horrendous looking pizzas and consumer panels admitting, on camera, that they didn’t think there was any actual real cheese to be found on a Domino’s pie.  The company vowed to improve, and made a very public spectacle of their efforts to fix things.  They even posted a live feed of customer Tweets in Times Square: a highly visible, real-time response to their improvements for all the world to see.

As a result, Domino’s has seen their sales numbers improving steadily. Investor confidence in the brand has skyrocketed. In 2011, Domino’s stock prices rose 110%. Being “Flawsome” appears to be a smart strategic decision for Domino’s.  But why did it work?

Understanding the Brand Lover

The relationship between a consumer and a brand is a complex and nuanced one.  There are many, many factors that lead a person to order pizza from one restaurant rather than another. When we start delving into what the underlying appeal of what a marketing message of “We weren’t very good, really, but we’re trying to get better!” might be, we have to examine not only how the customer views the pizza restaurant in question, but how they view the world in general, and their place in it.

We are dealing right now with a consumer base that has been trained to be skeptical about everything. Having faith or trust in an institution is viewed as a nostalgic form of naivete; we’re sure that there’s going to be a fly in our bowl of soup. Reaching this market with a message of perfection or idealism isn’t going to work. This audience is not capable of believing such things. They know nothing in this world is perfect and they prefer to do business with a company that is honest about their imperfections.

Organizations that can acknowledge their own shortcomings, while putting forward a reasonable plan to remedy the solution with a sense of humor and maturity, appeal to these customers. The customer can identify with the brand—after all, they know they’re not perfect people. They’ve screwed up themselves, once or twice, over the years.  They may have had to go through their own process of rebuilding. There are common points of experience between Domino’s and the legions of customers driving the brand’s turnaround. The brands that are the easiest for customers to bond with are the brands that are most human—and haven’t we been told that to err is human?

There’s a lot to learn from Domino’s. Organizations that move in a more humanistic fashion, understanding and embracing those traits that bring them closer into alignment with their Brand Lover’s experiences and world view, are those that are going to dominate, even in a crowded marketplace. There is value in being “flawsome.”

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