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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Domino's is rolling the dice

Domino's Pizza is taking a couple of big risks. First, the chain will change the recipe of its pizza from the crust up. Second, it will promote the change by gathering bloggers and others who have criticized the taste of their product, asking their opinion in a live tasting.

Can a major chain change the recipe of their product? According to Russell Weiner, marketing chief at Domino's, "We weren't winning against everyone at taste." One consultant cautioned, "It's like McDonald's changing the ingredients in the Big Mac. Risks are akin to Coca-Cola's change — undone after a fan revolt — in Coke's taste." While Coca-Cola failed to understand there is more to a brand than blind-taste-test preference, this assumption implies that Domino's customers are primarily concerned with the taste of the product.

Domino's ranks first in convenience and price. The delivery pizza industry has declined 6% over the past year, and Domino's feels the crunch. While some may believe that a recipe change is admitting that what the brand stood for was wrong, would you rather ride a sinking ship until you've drowned, or get that boat to dock and make repairs? The essence of Domino's brand is hot, convenient, and affordable. Why wouldn't they make an effort to add delicious to their brand?

The only risk I foresee is their challenge to get reaction from their critics. Asking for live feedback does have a chance of backfire. The bloggers could taste the new recipe, claim it's still not great. Honestly, what do they have to lose? The people who have a poor perception of the brand will have not changed, but if Domino's is confident with their recipe they could get those very people who advocate against their brand to give it a nod of endorsement. Sure, it's a bold chance they're taking, but one which could pay off for them.

It's not unprecedented for a chain to make recipe changes. Adding enhancements to your product helps gain new customers, and satisfy existing customers to keep them longer. Domino's enhanced their brand to include hot with the introduction of their heat-wave bags. No one will complain when their convenient, affordable pizza arrives hotter and more tasty.

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