Domino’s, YouTube and Idiotic Employees

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The internet is abuzz today with reports of the two Domino’s employees who tampered with food, videotaped it, and uploaded it to YouTube.

As Emily Bryson York writes in the April 14 AdAge:

“…two youths identifying themselves as Kristy and Michael besmirch a pair of sub sandwiches and the pizza chain’s reputation. Michael inserts pieces of cheese into his nose and waves pieces of salami behind his backside. Both the salami and the cheese are placed on the sandwiches. The video had gotten more than 21,000 YouTube views at press time. ” (UPDATE, April 16: According to AdAge, from April 14 to 15, the number of YouTube views had jumped from 21,000 to 760,000.)

The video has since been taken off YouTube for “copyright” reasons.  But if you’re looking for either humor or intelligence, this is not the video for you.

The video, its circulation and the resulting Internet buzz clearly point out the importance of monitoring brand reputation. No need to elaborate on that point further, except to say I’m quite surprised that, according to the April 14 AdAge article, Domino’s had “decided not to issue a press release or post a statement online” because “a strong response from Domino’s would alert more consumers to the embarrassment.” By today, their stance had changed: Domino’s president Patrick Doyle has posted a response video on YouTube. Still, the response time is not what it could have been.

(UPDATE, April 16: Domino’s has also been active on Twitter, responding to posts in real-time with the handle “dpzinfo.” The Twitter-verse generally gives high marks for this level of engagement and for the video below. Certainly, there’s more Domino’s should and will do to respond.)

More troublesome, to me, is the behavior of the employees. I’m not going to suggest that this kind of thing doesn’t happen elsewhere, because I’ve worked in restaurants and I know better. However, I’m also a believer in a kind of “implicit contract”: When you agree to work for an organization, you should strive to help that organization succeed (or at the very least do it no harm), no matter how unhappy you may be with the organization, your job or yourself. If you find yourself unable to do that, then do the honorable thing and quit. Both parties – employer and employee – have legal and ethical responsibilities, whether overtly stated or not.

According to Domino’s president Patrick Doyle in the YouTube video, the “two team members have been dismissed, and there are felony warrants out for their arrest.” Whatever their ultimate punishment, it will pale in comparison to the potential damage they’ve done to the Domino’s brand.

The internet and social media provide tremendous opportunities for voices to be heard. But with that comes responsibility. This is an example of what happens when that responsibility is ignored. I hope the two idiotic employees in question pay a significant price for their choices.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2009 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

4 Replies to “Domino’s, YouTube and Idiotic Employees”

  1. I agree 100% with your comment on an “implicit contract”. However, we are grown men, and have learned this. I didn’t watch the video because I’d be too disgusted, but I would imagine that they are two dumb teenagers without the concept of having respect for their customers or the company which they work for.Since this is a branding blog though…a story like this is bad enough. Actual video footage? Brand devastation isn’t even the right term. But, Domino’s should have definitely spoken up immediately to assure customers that these people would be prosecuted and echo whatever regulations their company has to assure that things like this do not happen and how seriously they take it. This is always unfortunate for a brand. I remember a few years back where there was a woman who claimed to have found a finger in her chili. That was a lie, and not on video – I still hear people talking about it though. It has possibly done permanent damage. There is only so much a company can do to combat these situations, but a swift, honest response is usually the best response.

  2. Sean -Thanks so much for visiting and for sharing your thoughts.I fully agree that Domino’s response was a step slow. And there’s more to do. They’ve got a ton of trust to win back, through no fault of their own. You’re exactly right – in a crisis like this, “swift and honest” goes a long way.And for the record, I’d guess the employees in the video to be in their twenties, chronologically speaking. Their emotional age is subject to debate.Matthew

  3. Matthew,What kinds of things do you think Domino’s can do in the near future to begin to win back the trust of customers? What would work in your opinion?

  4. Dear Matthew,If indeed the old saying is true that a negative impression does 3x the damage that a positive impression because people are more likely pass-on something negative to friends and family, then Dominos has a PR problem (760K x 3 = 2,280 negative impressions). Dominos I am sure is responding, because their brand is in jeopardy. I hope they are doing lots of marketing research to monitor impressions…this will help them make better and more informed marketing decisions.Good blog. Enjoy your writings.Larry SolomonPS Are you a time-efficiency expert? I heard your were.

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