As a marketing professional and a self-professed Domino’s pizza fan, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear from Cornell alumnus Russell Weiner, Chief Marketing Officer of Domino’s, in this weekend’s Managerial Marketing class.
The Domino’s brand turnaround is one of the great marketing success stories that will no doubt be featured in marketing textbooks for years to come. Mr. Weiner, B.A. ’90, is widely credited for their success. The company went from negative sales in 2008 to blowing the competition out of the water by 2009. While this directly correlates with Mr. Weiner’s arrival at Domino’s from Pepsi, he humbly credits their success to the company’s application of three broad strategies:
- Putting the product first
- Understanding customer “tensions”
- Marketing with complete transparency
Know your place
Domino’s was known for their service and quick delivery. As a service company, they ranked at the top. But as a quality pizza company, they were next to last. How do you turn a brand around from such a dismal position? Fundamentally, it all starts with knowing what business you’re in.
“We’re a pizza delivery company, not just a delivery company,” said Weiner, “We always talked about ourselves as a delivery business, and it was so yesterday.”
“Heritage is important and it has to direct where you’re going, but you have to look at the world around you.”
So Domino’s embarked on a two-year effort laser-focused on one thing: making a really good pizza.
Releasing the tension
With a product they could finally be proud of, they could then focus on marketing. The secret sauce of a winning strategy, according to Weiner, is to base it around how your product can address market “tensions.”
“A tension is a genuine ‘coil-up’ discomfort in society,” Weiner explained. “Think about it as [a] spring…if you could release all that tension and have the power of that spring work for you with the marketing that you do, think about how it could amplify your message.”
In the height of an economic downturn, the tensions impacting the 2008-09 marketplace were consumers’ general distrust of corporations. Weiner’s remedy: face that distrust head-on with shockingly brutal honesty.
In a carefully coordinated multi-phase campaign, Domino’s made a daring move to actually broadcast the negative consumer feedback they had been receiving, followed by documentary-style reporting of how they were working to make things better.
Their unique approach delivered astounding results worthy of their now synonymous tagline, “oh yes we did.” The campaign was so successful that they were actually unable to meet the initial demand. By the end of 2010, they moved to the top of the market.
While there are many other gems to be taken from his success story from a marketing perspective, Weiner also had more broadly applicable advice for aspiring executives:
- Know what you want to achieve. Set explicit goals and broadcast those goals, both to your superiors and to the rest of the company.
- When you take risks, make them calculated. Weiner is a big proponent of leveraging market research and testing an idea before hitting the streets. And have a backup plan in case it doesn’t pan out.
- At the end of the day, it’s about the people. “As you get further up the chain, a lot of people think ‘I’m all the way up here, I’m smarter than everybody.’ But that’s when you lose,” he says. “You win when you realize that it’s about surrounding yourself with really smart people and then trusting them to do their work.”
For more information about Domino’s success story, check out their entire site dedicated to the “pizza turnaround.”