Admitting You Stink

By Lloyd Graff

I was shocked by the current ad campaign by Domino’s pizza in which company president, Patrick Doyle, clearly states that the pizza that made the company billions of dollars is awful. He’s changed the crust, the sauce, cheese–everything, but kept the 30 minute delivery and the price.

This is a bet the farm gamble for Domino’s, a company that started with Tom Monaghan schlepping pizzas to college students at Eastern Michigan in a Volkswagen. Monaghan became very rich, bought the Detroit Tigers baseball team and started his own law school. He bought a farm outside of Ann Arbor to house the offices and test kitchens that supported his enormous international franchise empire that sold Domino’s rather mediocre pizza. Monaghan sold out in 1998 and Domino’s is fighting Pizza Hut and Papa John’s for market share. Now Doyle comes in and proclaims the company’s core product to be crap.

The company had such chutzpa they put a link on their Web site to a clip from Steven Colbert’s the Colbert Report in which he gives a hilarious yet stinging analysis of the product it’s known for.

What a crazy gamble. Is this New Coke or Schumpeter’s creative destruction? Will Doyle’s gamble lead the company to new heights of pizza adoration? Too early to tell, but the audacity of building a marketing campaign based on tearing down your core product is inspiring. I must admit I’ve thought of doing something like what Doyle is doing now regarding Today’s Machining World’s old Web sites. Honestly, I believe our early Web sites were mediocre, but I held my tongue. There have been many issues of TMW that had a lot of typos or poorly executed photos, but I haven’t built an ad campaign decrying past mistakes.

To err is human. To live is to fail. But to bet the company by proclaiming to your loyal customers they have been eating cheesy swill is a risk I could not stomach.

Question: Would you have the guts to do what Domino’s did?

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10 thoughts on “Admitting You Stink

  1. AvatarDiane Haberer

    I would not do what Dominos is doing. It’s a slap in the face to loyal customers. My daughter and I do not like a lot of cheese on our pizza. We liked the old style pizza sauce and cheeses. The new crust is good, but we will no longer be going to Dominos every Sat night . We will be going to Papa Gino’s.

  2. AvatarLarry

    The honesty is refreshing and a good gamble. I tried a slice twenty years ago and decided that the box was tastier. This ad has piqued my interest and I will now give Dominos another chance. And look at all the buzzzzzzz,

  3. AvatarZiggy

    I like the new honesty in their ad campaign, being that I’m one of the people who think their pizza tasted like ketchup covered cardboard. However, I don’t see why they chose to completely revamp their product, thus alienating the millions of people who actually enjoy that taste?

    Wouldn’t it have made more sense to add the new recipe pizza to the menu? Pizza places give you a choice of 20 toppings… why not sauces? Is it so hard to have multiple sauces? Sweet, Spicy, Garlic/Herb, etc…??? You could probably offer a couple of different crust recipes, as well. They already offer different crust types (thin, thick…) but they all use the same dough. Why not offer traditional or new dough recipes? Sure it adds a bit more complexity to the pizza-making process, but not that much. But it should greatly increase the number of people who could find a pizza combination that they enjoy from Dominoes.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion.

  4. Avatarmr beef

    This bet will mushroom into Patrick Doyle getting a tomato in the face from the Board. Domino’s will be pepperonied with comments . Doyle will take the fall and garlick his wounds by opening a Godfather’s franchise.

  5. AvatarJonathan

    The boys and I had Domino’s last night, specifically because of the new campaign. I think they may have a winner.

  6. AvatarJohn Trivilino

    I have had the old Dominos Pizza plenty of times. In fact, you could call me a repeat offender (to my taste buds). Their flavor fell into the classification of “What did you expect for a mass-produced product?” as opposed to some of the local mom and pop shops. Like most big, corporate run places, Dominos was trying to not over-flavorize their product and chase away customers with strong spices. Small pizza shops on the other hand, produce products that they personally want to eat, not dummying down to the lowest common denominator.

    The only way I would have changed Mr. Doyle’s campaign would be more in the way of “We thank you for enjoying our product over the years, but I think we could do better!” not insulting their tastebuds (or lack of) by flat out saying they stink.

    Either way, the best of luck to you Mr. Doyle!

    John Trivilino

  7. Avatarrob klauber

    I was shocked when I saw the ad. Kinda liked the honesty but still thought it was too bold or over the top when it came to describing the crust as cardboard and the sauce as ketchup. I always liked Dominoes somewhat because the pizza was hot and the taste was decent. The hungrier I was, the better it tasted but I never thought it was terrible like Caesar’s or Chucky Cheese.. So my thinking is that people who kinda liked it such as myself will go for the new better pizza and people that didn’t like it may very well try it. Since it gets notice and people talking, I think the ad will work when it comes to the bottom line and isn’t that what it’s mostly about?

  8. AvatarKimberly Pontius

    We have a skinny kid here in Traverse City that dances on the corner like a champ while holding a Dominoes sign that probably does more to promote the product locally than this ad campaign will ever do. He is amazing and his whole production cost is wrapped up in an iPod loaded with his favorite tunes. (Think what Jared did for Subway) Do we need a CEO to tell us the product was crap? No, I voted with my wallet a long time ago when I tried Dominoes for the first and last time. Remember, some people buy for quantity not for quality. They have lot’s of mouths to feed and crappy, cheap food is their answer. You get what you pay for. It’s a gutsy campaign that may or may not work. Either way the advertising firm that really took the chance will still be going to the bank although it may be a one shot cowboy.

  9. AvatarEmily

    I tried the new Domino’s pizza after seeing the commercial and being pulled in by the two medium pizzas with two topping for $5.99 each deal. I was disappointed, but I think most of my dislike came from the franchise I went to. You could tell there was no care in how they made the pizza, and when I picked it up it had been sitting there for a while. No matter what the recipe is, if the people who are making it and serving it aren’t on top of it, it’s not going to be good. Maybe the president of Domino’s is excited about his pizza, but what about those minimum wage workers they hire who are the customer’s local face for the company and food? If those people aren’t game for the campaign, and aren’t personally involved, then the message and product will be lost in the chain of command.


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