How Should Domino’s Respond?

That Branding Thing reader Sean Grace asked a great question in the “comments” section of my previous post. He wrote:

“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?”

I won’t claim to be a PR expert, but I’ll offer a few ideas.

First, I’ll say I like Domino’s response to date. They’ve maintained a tone of customer gratitude and care throughout. The YouTube video featuring CEO David Boyle hits all the right notes. (Though they might have coached him to look a little less shell-shocked and a little more conversational.)

They’ve also been very active on Twitter: visit http://www.Twitter.com/dpzinfo. Most related tweets are very supportive of Domino’s brand and response to this crisis.

As Mr. Boyle notes in the video, the employees in question were fired. (And they’ve since been arrested.) Further, he says, the store in question was shut down and sanitized from top to bottom. He claims Domino’s will re-evaluate its hiring practices, and he notes that auditors are in Domino’s stores as a regular practice.

So, to answer Sean’s question: What else can they do?

For me, the first step is assessment. Domino’s should assess the impact this has had on consumer perceptions. That will help them to measure their response. (I’d guess they’ve already done some form of assessment.) The conservative approach would be to assume significant brand damage, but that could also lead you to an “over-response” that has negative consequences of its own.

The next two steps should happen simultaneously: Consumer outreach and employee outreach. Let’s take consumer outreach first. Domino’s might create a series of videos, enlisting their team members to tell a story of both food safety and pride. They also need to articulate food safety standards and policies. Some certification of their cleanliness, food safety, etc., by an independent, recognized third party also couldn’t hurt.

As far as employee outreach, an internal messaging program should keep all team members informed of the response to this crisis.  If Domino’s throws a ton of new policy at this problem, it could have the unintended consequence of creating an air of distrust. If Domino’s truly believes that its policies were strong before this crisis, and they believe in their people, there’s no need to overdo it on knee-jerk policy changes.

What else do you think Domino’s should do? Please add your thoughts to the “comments” section.

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.

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6 Replies to “How Should Domino’s Respond?”

  1. Great post Matthew. I too worry about knee jerk reactions that outweigh the damage, so I agree that an assessment is important. One suggestion I would have for them is to spend some serious effort on a user generated content campaign. There are no doubt countless stories of great customer experiences with Domino’s. I think this would be a great time to reach out and capture them, and then leverage them in all channels. Letting your CUSTOMERS do the talking for you on quality and safety would go a lot further than if it simply comes from the brass.

  2. I definitely agree with your thoughts on customer and employee response. I think the employee area could definitely go overlooked, but it cannot afford to. This is the time for Domino’s to let their employees know just how much they are valued and depended upon.I don’t really eat Domino’s all that much, but I see commercials and recieve mailings or “door store” coupons/special offers regularly. I think it’s important for Domino’s to continue putting their positive message out there as much as possible to try to allow customers to move past it as soon as possible. I mentioned Wendy’s a while back with the finger in the chili hoax, and I seem to remember them offering a free junior frosty to everyone on a certain day not long after. I’m assuming this promotion was related to the incident, and was aimed at encouraging patronage again. I know I went to 2 drive-thrus that day! Maybe Domino’s could try something like that – of course they don’t have anything as small as a frosty that I know of. But, they could offer some kind of similar promotion with their hoagies.

  3. I wanted to add one more thing. As I’m thinking more and more about this problem, it seems to me that even more important, or as important as what is done in the future to combat this issue is what Domino’s has done in the past. If they have put the time and effort into their marketing in the past and have solid brand equity to show for it, it will undoubtedly be easier to recover from this. Of course, Domino’s cannot change the past, but how quickly they recover from this incident, I think will speak to what kind of equity their brand has.

  4. Brian – Great idea! Enlisting the support of consumers would be a very powerful way to respond.Sean – I agree that this kind of thing is a test of “brand equity,” in the most traditional sense of the word. If you’ve read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” you’ll recall that Covey presents the idea of an “emotional bank account,” to which one is encouraged to make more deposits than withdrawals. I believe a similar principle applies to brands. The more goodwill your brand has generated, the better equipped it is to weather the storms.Thanks to both of you for reading and for your thoughtful comments!

  5. Principle based management is typically the most effective. In crisis situations, it is always good to revisit the principles that your company holds dear. Reaffirming what a company believes in provides clarity and reassurance to employees that share the same values. It would also be important to explain that the employees who violated those principles were handled with respect and professionalism. People want to know the company walks the talk even when things go wrong.

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