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Domino's Pizza: Reverse Engineering Reputation Management

Posted on 1.11.2010

Reputation management is a term often thrown around the Web as a way to respond to criticism (warranted or not) before it gets out of hand and a brand is damaged. But Domino's Pizza is proving that reputation management can go a long way as an offensive manuever; before any damage has actually taken place.

Domino's new ad campaign skewers their own product; with the intent of selling a new, tastier brand of pizza. You might have already seen the spots or heard them on the radio. It can be quite alarming (or at least eyebrow-raising) to hear a company blast its own product. For example, one spot features the voice of a past Domino's customer saying, "Domino's pizza crust to me is like cardboard." The commercial then goes on to announce Domino's new formula, including new crust and sauces. As little as just a few years ago, such a tactic was unheard of. Not anymore. Not in an age of empowered consumers.

Domino's does not need a lesson in bad publicity in the Internet age. Just last year, employees did plenty of brand damage by posting YouTube videos documenting the mistreatment of food before serving it to customers. This time, however, Domino's is striking first. It's a bit of reverse engineering that might start a new wave of reputation management tactics as brand promotion, not damage control.

I don't recall an outcry from consumers about how bad Domino's was in the past. But that's not the point. I've come to believe that the consumer's voice is all-powerful in this day and age and so have many others. So, Domino's decided to use the power of the consumer voice to its advantage. Even if there was little negative being said about Domino's, the commercials make me think there was an entire movement of dissatisfied customers taking their displeasure to the Internet and beyond. In other words, I'm led to believe that my fellow consumers had a problem and Domino's fixed it. (I think.) Domino's: the pizza place that cares. Nice, huh?

Because we're dealing directly with consumers, it's crucial that Domino's "walks the walk." Their Twitter account is loaded with "@" replies - everything from saying "thanks" to a compliment, to responding to criticism or customer service issues, and even chatting with customers about a new movie. Their Facebook page offers coupons and provides another way for customers to communicate, even vent. Plenty of fans have left positive feedback about the new pizzas, and in some creative ways such as one that reads, "My dogs hate the new Domino's pizza. It tastes so good we eat it crust and all. No doggie treats left. Cudos, Domino." That's like a free commercial in itself. Of course, there is negative feedback too. But in the mold of true social media responibilty, Domino's replies with solutions to the problems, and in a timely fashion. Domino's has more than 400,000 fans on Facebook and close to 9,000 followers on Twitter. In fact, they gained 10 new followers during the time it took to write this post.

Domino's took a certian leap of faith here. Certainly, new customers and previous customers are being targeted with the promise of a new, better product. There will be loyal customers who are not happy about the change. But if nothing else, Domino's comes out of all this with a new respect from consumers - whether real or imagined. Reputation management is not all about reacting to negative publicity. In this case, it's about creating a reputation, and backing it up.

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