CMO Q&A: Russell Weiner, Domino's Pizza

Russell Weiner of Domino's Pizza talks to Aarti Shah about its controversial new ad campaign and maintaining consumer trust

Russell Weiner of Domino's Pizza talks to Aarti Shah about its controversial new ad campaign and maintaining consumer trust.

In the ad campaign that launched this past January, Domino's new CEO admits its pizza needed improvement. What drove this tactic?

Weiner: We want to tell a very compelling story - the truth. If you search "new and improved" on Google, you get something like 160 million hits. So if you launch a new and improved pizza, you need to make sure this message breaks through. In this case, because the story was true, it really did.

There are risks with taking this approach, like reinforcing negative perceptions. How did that weigh into the strategy?

Weiner: For the message to break through, it had to be bold. To be bold with a message, you have to be extraordinarily confident in your product, not only with the general population, but also with your most loyal consumers. Once the product [beat our expectations], we knew we had something that we wouldn't want to turn back from.

It was such a significant improvement; it tested 25% higher than our old pizza and even higher with current users. Going out with this message just required we have product strength.

Do you think people will be confused that Domino's once spoke to the superior quality of its pizza and now admits it wasn't that good?

Weiner: One thing that inspired this direction was that in 2008 we launched a campaign that really focused on quick delivery. To be honest, that didn't really move the needle. We found that folks wanted us to talk more about taste.

So I don't think if you look at some of our [previous] advertising, you see us talking about taste as much as delivery. We've always been proud of our pizza, but we were able to make it better, so we did.

Describe the consumer feedback you're getting.

Weiner: This campaign was all about honesty and transparency. We have a Web site, PizzaTurnaround.com, which has live feeds from Twitter about what people are saying about our pizza at any moment in time. By far, the positive has outweighed the negative.

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