The brand embraced the tough love and used it to fuel an ad campaign to tell the world it had changed.
It was the great "Pizza turnaround" – a no-holds-barred campaign from Crispin Porter & Bogusky that declared "Oh yes we did". The brand was not only agreeing with critics, it was acting on it. A simple "new and improved" message wouldn’t cut it.
"No one pays attention to that language," Karen Kaiser, vice-president of advertising and Hispa-nic marketing at Domino’s, explains. She, with chief executive Patrick Doyle and others, appeared in the campaign. "It came down to telling the truth and asking people to give us a chance."
Domino’s credited its new recipe and the ads for more than doubling its fourth-quarter results that year. Growth has been steady ever since. Its share price, $2.61 in 2008, hit $140 this April.
Initially, the ads were all about transparency. Domino’s vowed not to use deceptive photography and asked customers to share their own pictures. It printed their quotes on boxes and broadcast their reviews in Times Square. It also live-streamed from its kitchens to show the food being prepared.
"A lot of the work was admitting fault and saying we can do better," says Tony Calcao, executive vice-president and executive creative director at CP&B. "Since then, we’ve gained their trust."
This has allowed the brand to make bolder choices, whether it is introducing products, ads, tech like "Emoji Ordering", which allows ordering by texting a pizza emoji, or the DXP, a delivery car with a built-in oven to keep food warm.
"We do our best when we do and not say," Matt Talbot, vice-president and executive creative
director at CP&B, says. "If it should be fun and easy to order a pizza, we build a way to order with an emoji or Amazon Echo."
Last year’s "AnyWare" campaign, featuring stars such as Eva Longoria using the digital platform, helped Domino’s achieve 12% growth.
"Emoji Ordering" won a Titanium Grand Prix at Cannes 2015, but awards come a distant second to business gains. Kaiser says: "While awards are nice to have, if you aren’t moving the needle in terms of sales, then I don’t have a job any more."
Vice-president of advertising and Hispanic marketing, Domino’s
What allows us to keep the bar really high is respect. We don’t always agree, but that’s where the debate comes in. There is a level of openness and ability to listen to one another. We agree that we should push each other. It shouldn’t just be the agency pushing creative down our throats, and it shouldn’t be us just pushing back and saying no. They feel they work for the brand as much as they work for the agency. We really do move as a unit. That’s what makes [the relationship] unique and so special.
The CP&B team has an unusual combination of creative and strategic brains, and a really strong level of knowledge of the business. They understand how it works, and what we need to do to drive sales. And they really understand the emotional side. The bulk of the system is made up of franchises. There have been years when things were bad, when franchisees would stand up in a meeting and say: "I’m going to lose my house." There is a certain level of responsibility that you feel, and they
really take that to heart.
Executive vice-president and executive creative director, CP&B
Karen is a wonderful person and super-passionate. She’s a straight-shooter. We believe she wants to do great work and she wants to do what’s right for Domino’s. That’s not always the case in this industry. Karen believes in what she’s doing, and we know she fights for the work as much as we do. We’re on the same page about wanting to do something special.
Vice-president and executive creative director, CP&B
We’ve always been incredibly honest and transparent with each other: that’s one big piece of it. The other is the level of passion on both sides. Karen’s as dedicated as any client we’ve ever seen. You need that at the most basic level. You need people on both sides to care and want to change the company. Over the course of almost seven years now those have been two big factors that have contributed to us being able to do things that other brands can’t.
Vice-president and creative director, CP&B
After seven years, you begin to feel a part of the company – you want to do anything you can to help it succeed. It’s a powerful feeling to be tied to their overall success [or] failure. When a collaborative and honest relationship is put into practice, big opportunities are unveiled.