The Pizza Turnaround: Engaging Customers Through Marketing, Social Media and One Nifty App

2014 Michigan Social Media Brand IndexFor the third year running, Market Strategies International partnered with DBusiness to rank the top 50 Michigan-based companies on social media engagement. Read the full article, “Rules of Engagement,” just released in the November/December issue. The list includes brands with a national or even international footprint as well as those with a regional one, and is dominated by companies with a rich, multifaceted presence in the social space—engaging customers on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Foursquare and various other social channels.

Last year, we focused some attention on regional pop company Faygo, looking into how its strong brand following has translated into social media success. This year, we are taking a look at international pizza chain Domino’s, whose “Pizza Turnaround” has resulted in a huge improvement in customer satisfaction, company revenue and business growth since the turnaround started in late 2009. According to Adrian Campos of The Motley Fool, Domino’s increased its customer satisfaction index score 12 percentage points, rising from 69% in 2000 to 81% in 2013. And Domino’s leads among top restaurant franchises—including Starbucks, Dunkin’ Brands, Yum! Brands and McDonald’s—in international store growth, growing 43% since the end of 2008. All of this by taking harsh customer feedback seriously and committing to making improvements? That is a brand story worth taking a closer look at.

Domino's Pizza

Listening to—and Acting on—Social Media Feedback

A huge part of Domino’s turnaround strategy was to listen to customer feedback and respond by making the needed changes to the taste and quality of the food. But did it succeed in bettering the pizza? As we did last year for the Faygo story, we did what any serious researchers would do—we conducted a little taste test at the office. Tasters weren’t provided with the brand name and were asked to comment on the taste and quality of the pizza. Based on the feedback received from my colleagues, Domino’s hand-tossed pizza is pretty darn tasty and has quality components: cheese, sauce, crust.

  • “[It was] attractive, smelled good and had a generally good flavor profile. The garlic crust was nice.”
  • “The ratio of cheese to sauce was very good. The amount of toppings was ideal. The thickness and chewiness of the crust was great.”
  • “The freshness is good…I like the crust.”

After it was revealed to be Domino’s brand, my colleagues confirmed that Domino’s pizza is notably better than what they’d had in the past, particularly the quality of the crust.

  • “I’m not surprised—there’s been a ton of improvement from Domino’s circa 2000. It’s still not great, but pretty good for a national chain.”
  • “The crust is more consistent than what I remember Domino’s to be, which was very ‘doughy.’”
  • “I’m surprised. It has more toppings and a better crust than in the past.”

However, you don’t have to take my word on the improved product. In 2010, Domino’s conducted its own blind taste tests in which 1,800 pizza consumers evaluated pizzas from Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s, and Domino’s beat both competitors by a wide margin.

As Domino’s was improving its product, it was also engaging customers in this process. Beyond the taste tests, Domino’s launched an ad campaign (and a related documentary and social media sites), in which it apologetically admitted that the old pizzas didn’t taste good, and it was going to work hard to make them better. Then, as Domino’s made improvements, it talked about this in the ongoing campaign. This open, honest stance extended beyond the ad campaign, permeating Domino’s various media channels. It invited customers to be “Pizza Paparazzi,” asking them to send in photos of their Domino’s pizzas to be shared online at a “Show Us Your Pizza” site, and Domino’s awarded $500 each to the 12 customers who contributed the best un-retouched photos. On the site, CMO Russell Weiner promised honesty and authenticity for future pizza imaging:

  • We will only photograph real honest-to-goodness pizzas.
  • Our employees will make the pizza we shoot.
  • We will not artificially manipulate the food we shoot.

Through both its TV spots and its social media channels, Domino’s was talking directly to its customers about how the brand was listening and improving things. And many of those customers leaned in and connected.

Delighting Customers with Technology

Another big part of the turnaround was to embrace technology via a new pizza ordering and tracking system and associated app. This move allowed Domino’s to maintain its leadership for delivery speed, to give customers more direct control over pizza ordering and to increase transparency for its customers, who could now see when their pizza was being made, cooked, boxed and delivered via The Pizza Tracker app.

We used the app when we conducted our pizza test. Our three pizzas were easily ordered via the phone app—we typed the order in, but the app does allow voice ordering as of this summer—and then we delighted in tracking our pizzas’ progress via the Pizza Tracker. Beyond tracking pizza progress, we were given options of calling the store if desired, sending notes to the kitchen and providing feedback scores regarding ordering experience, food quality, our satisfaction and loyalty. There’s even an option to share feedback on online restaurant review site Yelp—allowing customer experience to be immediately shared via social channels. Ultimately, our pizzas arrived right on time and the order was correct. The positive experience will likely result in us ordering from Domino’s again.

Domino's Pizza Tracker

Our experience with ordering and eating Domino’s pizza was a good one, and we are not alone. As mentioned, Domino’s satisfaction and loyalty scores have been going up significantly in recent years. Customers are returning to the brand, resulting in huge store growth—in Q3 of 2014, the company added 160 stores. And its financial turnaround has been remarkable: profits are up 16% this year, and stock shares have risen 13% in late 2014, hitting an all-time high in October. Domino’s boldly stated a goal of turning things around, and it has delivered (no pun intended), aided by a re-dedication to product quality and customer engagement. It continues to engage customers in discussions across social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp—as well as directly. And these interactions and discussions have helped to buoy a once-great brand back into the spotlight.

Adding Social Media Research to Your MR Mix

Market Strategies believes social media analyses can be useful on their own or as a complement to traditional market research methods, helping to add color and depth to studies. We found the research on Michigan-based companies to be fascinating, and we’ve also done similar work for the US utilities sector. We can look at other regions or market sectors, or we can dig deeply on a specific brand to see the impact that its social media activities have had on brand strength and how this relates to other qualitative or quantitative research learnings. Email me to talk about how your brand could be using social media to grow customer engagement!

This entry was posted in Brand and Messaging, Consumer & Retail, CX and tagged , , , , by Erin Leedy. Bookmark the permalink.
Erin Leedy

About Erin Leedy

Erin Leedy is a senior vice president of research and consulting in the Technology Research division of Market Strategies. She has been conducting technology research since 1996, focusing on the development of new hardware, software and services for the consumer and business markets. On the qualitative side, Erin is a skilled focus group moderator who specializes in observational and contextual site visits, modified ethnographic approaches, out-of-box and beta testing and product placements in consumer and business environments. Her quantitative expertise includes customer profiling, market exploration, segmentation and choice modeling. She graduated cum laude from The Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in industrial design. When not at work, she’s working hard to live up to her Twitter bio, which currently reads: researcher…designer…mommy…foodie…modernist…mixtapeologist…blogger.

2 thoughts on “The Pizza Turnaround: Engaging Customers Through Marketing, Social Media and One Nifty App

  1. Pingback: Domino's Pizza Successfully Redesigns Brand | Digital Marketing Strategy Blog

  2. Pingback: Domino's Pizza: A Lesson in Rebranding - Paul Karem

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