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Flipping Domino’s

I just came across a new campaign by Domino’s Pizza that’s a great example of what I call self-evident marketing — presentation of a product or brand that connects its value directly to the user or customer in a way that’s obvious and inescapable.

Domino’s Pizza launched what may be the first true social media-savvy rebranding campaign ever, via a brilliant and authentic “documentary” about re-inventing its pizza in response to customer complaints.

Domino’s uses the spot to tacitly acknowledge that its customers own its brand, and to explicitly portray the sorry state of that brand, in their customers’ own words. Complaints that Domino’s pizza crust “tastes like cardboard” and that its tomato sauce is like ketchup are presented and repeated —  in letters to the company, posts on Twitter and Facebook, and in customers’ videotaped  focus groups.

No doubt many consumers of Domino’s pizza will be unsurprised by these complaints in and of themselves, but it’s a bit of a jolt to see and hear dissatisfied customers gripe so bluntly, especially in a commercial. The effect gets our attention, and sets the stage for a genuine response from the company — and the “real people” who work for it.

I’ll admit that some of the company-focused scenes in the documentary feel a little staged; I somehow doubt that pep-rally cheering is standard procedure at Domino’s HQ in Ann Arbor. And there are some artificial beauty shots of cheese, sauce and crust interspersed with the “documentary” video taken of employees in action. Nevertheless, the employees we see onscreen seem genuine and likable, and in shots of them watching video playback of a dissatisfied focus group participants, it really seems to pain the pizza makers to hear customers rail about their product.

Likewise, company president Patrick Doyle sounds sincere (and decidedly unscripted) in his heartfelt, if slightly convoluted, statement about the company’s response to customer complaints.”You can either use negative comments to get you down, or you can use them to excite you and energize your process of making a better pizza. We chose the latter.”

“Most companies hide the criticism that they’re getting, and we actually faced it head-on.”

When the CEO and Domino’s chefs acknowledge how hard it is to hear those complaints, it’s difficult to discount their sincerity  (even if the cooks look a little more fancily frocked than I’d imagine they are when cameras aren’t around). So it’s hard to discount their claims that they’re making better pizzas because they know we want (and, by implication) deserve them. I bet it’ll also be tough for a lot of viewers to ignore the invitation to give the “new” Domino’s another chance.

The proof, of course will be in the pie. But the brand has new life, thanks to a self-evident approach.

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