Photo: Rowen Atkinson, Flickr
If you've been fan of Domino's over the past 50 years, your judgment might be a little off. Perhaps you were charmed by the promise of 30 minute guaranteed delivery or the company's warm and fuzzy Midwestern backstory (it's based in Ann Arbor, Michigan), but you certainly weren't enjoying the pizza. The company's new philosophy is: "We changed our crust, sauce and cheese. And hopefully your mind."
So who was eating all that pizza? With more than 9,000 stores worldwide, of course Domino's had a few fans, but following a new US recipe launch in December of 2009, they've captured several thousand more.
Fast-food chains frequently add and change recipes to be "new and improved," but Domino's newest pie was accompanied by an almost subversive style of branding. The company launched a series of self-critical ads, including the documentary-style "Turnaround" commercial. We see Domino's employees' faces fall while watching brutally honest focus groups berate the cardboard-like crust and processed cheese. One test-kitchen chef explains the difficulty in facing such harsh commentary, having made the pizza for the better part of two decades.
Admittedly bad pizza has never been so successful. This year's first quarter saw a 14.3% rise in sales, which included new and more frequent customers. Second quarter response is expected to "reflect continued momentum" says Domino's spokesperson Tim McIntyre.
On the social media front, Domino's official Facebook site just met the half million fan mark and is creeping toward 15,000 on Twitter. In fact, the company is tweeting with everyone from disgruntled customers seeking the correct customer care line ("@CulinaryMama Very sorry for this. Be sure to contact our customer care team, this is not the way this should be handled") to celebrity pizza eaters like Stone Temple Pilots ("@STPBand Hey guys, can't wait to grab the new album. Saw CNN article, love to hear what the debate was on the pizza, & send you some too!").
The company has taken a hard look at its own product, spending two years to develop an entirely new slice, but what about the loyal fans who have been eating Domino's pizza for 50 years? "We had one guy who wanted his money back, saying he'd been eating cardboard for years, but that was just one guy," says McIntyre. On the other hand, one Facebook fan commented, "I have always loved Domino's. The only thing that has changed for me is that love has gone into stalker psychotic levels because I love the new taste so much!" . . . which may be an entirely different kind of problem.