There are times when any brand could use some refining. There are other times when nothing but a full-scale reconstruction will enable a rusty identity to return to the sea. But the optimal brand reinvention can and should allow a company to be more than it ever has been - to set sail as the glorious, cutting-edge ocean liner that paves the way for all of the competition.
There are a number of possible reasons why a brand, in any industry, might require such an extensive overhaul. For example,
· The company’s sales and market share may have been declining, or have been depressed, for some time
· The company may now need to reach an entirely different, or greatly expanded demographic
· The company’s product or service base may have changed (or may need to change) dramatically
· The brand’s reputation/ identity may have suffered extensive damage
Or, perhaps in one particular case, it’s simply that no one wants to buy your pizza anymore.
Why Domino’s Pizza Reinvented Itself
Because, not long ago, all of the above were true for Domino’s Pizza and the company managed to overhaul every part of its business in a way that is a striking example for us to consider. Let’s first consider why the company needed to reinvent its brand.
First, the company had lost its competitive advantage. Domino’s no longer provided its originally-marketed advantage (vis-à-vis its competitors): a 30-minute guarantee from order to delivery. Not only that but, as industry costs rose and prices didn’t keep step, surplus labor no longer existed for the manual receipt of phone orders. When workers were occupied, customer calls often went unanswered.
Second, what the market accepted as standard fare in the 1980s was no longer acceptable. The foodie movement had gained traction with everyday consumers, and with it the requirement for fresher, “cleaner” food and flavor. When Domino’s customers were polled and responded that the pizza tasted like cardboard, with a sauce that was like ketchup, it was clear that what the company had done in the past was no longer consistent with current consumer expectations.
Third, a marketing crisis hit in 2009 when an employee in North Carolina filmed a co-worker inserting cheese into his nose and putting snot into a sandwich. The video went viral. The health department temporarily shut them down.
It seemed like the end of Domino’s pizza - no service advantage, no marketable product and bad press. But it wasn’t. Instead, it was just the push that the company needed to make itself into a vastly better version of itself.
How Domino’s Pizza Reinvented Itself
The company addressed each of the items above with startling insight - beginning with a public acknowledgement of its errors.
That’s right. Instead of brushing the bad pizza under the pizza box, the company chose to agree with the consumers, to admit that its pizza was not good, its service had not been great and its reputation was terrible through its own fault.
This had a powerful impact. To begin with, it made Domino’s human and relatable - they had made mistakes and were willing to admit it. But it also gave people reason to believe that the company would change. Consumers tend to be skeptical of companies that make mistakes and then attempt to cover them up. A cover up implies defensiveness and defensiveness implies a lack of any desire to change.
Instead, Domino’s actions attracted tons of attention, which worked favorably because not only had the company acknowledged its past faults, but it had also worked to improve its product. The chefs worked to make a more savory sauce, to source higher quality mozzarella and to enhance the crust with garlic butter. In the end, the attention the company garnered from its apology for its past behavior brought many people who were interested in tasting the new, refined product. And it actually tastes quite good!
To reinforce its commitment to improve, the company announced that it would open locations in Italy. This was clearly a testament to the company’s confidence in its newfound quality. And in the United States, Domino’s locations are being updated to improve the ambience and to provide transparency so that consumers can see their pizza being made. Not only does this subtly address the past employee crisis, but it also speaks to a wider, younger demographic that demands corporate accountability.
Speaking of this wider demographic appeal, Domino’s realized that any pizza delivery company is only part food industry and part technology company. The company completely overhauled how it interacts with its customers by launching a Domino’s app and by providing numerous other ways to order pizza such as via Twitter, the Apple Watch and by texting an emoji. This way consumers - particularly younger, digitally-centric ones - can now track their pizza online as it is made and as it travels to their home.
The company also designed a specialty car - based on the Chevy Spark - that has one seat, special doors and warming ovens for up to eighty pizzas. Recently, the company has explored the use of robots or drones for its delivery.
Why did it do all of these things? Because Domino’s was willing to ask itself honestly:
1) What has to change in order to meet our customers’ needs?
2) How can we put into place things - such as the online ordering and potential future automated delivery - that will not only satisfy the customers but also help us to manage our operations more efficiently?
As a result, the company’s stock, which had fallen to $8.76 per share in 2010, was $262.50 as of 11/23/2018.
Today Domino’s is a new company and it is only a matter of time before everyone forgets its tarnished reputation of the past. Because it reinvented its brand.
How Can You Reinvent Your Brand?
Of course, the point of this post isn’t Domino’s; it’s you and your brand. If you’re at the point of needing a full reconstruction of your brand, there’s hope for the future. But it starts with honesty. I recommend that you begin by asking yourself the following questions.
· Have you addressed product problems - if that is an issue - that are preventing your consumers from choosing you over the competition?
· How do consumers view your brand? For example, what is different today from say five or ten years ago? Do consumers view your brand as staid or irrelevant? Do they believe that its inaccessible, or out of touch with technology?
· How are your competitors appealing to consumers? Is their product actually superior, or is it (which is very often the case), simply a matter of identity and reputation? If it’s the latter, how do consumers describe your competitors? How would you like them to view your brand?
· Does your target demographic need to change? All consumers age. But does your image appeal primarily to an older, or narrower demographic and you need to reach a younger or wider segment of the market?
· Have you had a reputation crisis? Remember that oil companies bounce back from spills, Nike recovered from the bad press regarding its use of child labor, and Domino’s came back stronger than ever from its employees’ bad choices. The key is to acknowledge the company’s shortcomings and errors of the past and to have a plan to be better going forward. Consumers are generally very eager to forgive those who admit their faults and to give a company a second chance.
· Are you overlooking a crucial aspect of your business model? For example, is technology now a key element of how your customers could interact with your products? Would you benefit from a revised interpretation of the business, as Domino’s did when it recognized that it is, in large part, a technology firm?
Once you have honestly assessed what has changed in the industry and what needs to change within the company, it’s time to reach out to a marketing professional. For a large-scale brand reinvention, you will most likely want outside support.
If that’s you, know that you aren’t alone. Many of the world’s largest companies have had to reinvent their image at some point and have done so very successfully. Instead of viewing this point as a crisis, it’s helpful to remember that sometimes what seems like the end is really just the impetus to build a stronger, better ship so that your company can sail off into a glorious future.