Lessons from the Dominos Experience

By Eric Seidel, CEO
The Media Trainers®

Two teenagers with a twisted sense of humor, incriminating themselves with a phone camera as one of them appears to be disgustingly tainting a customer’s sandwich as he prepares it in a Dominos kitchen in North Carolina. They post their mischief on youtube.com and it gets hundreds of thousands of hits.

According to Advertising Age, Dominos management first wanted to remain “below the radar.” It was a poor decision, and one management had to reverse in order to fight fire with fire. But, Dominos hesitation may have cost it more on image than necessary, even though some loss was inevitable had the pizza chain reacted positively immediately.

The AdAge online story reports: “Unfortunately for Domino’s, the video has already taken at least a temporary toll on quality and buzz ratings, as measured by BrandIndex. So far the changes are driven by negative perceptions among women. Buzz fell from 22.5 points last Friday to 13.6 yesterday. More significantly, Domino’s quality rating fell from 5 on Monday to minus 2.8 yesterday. Quality ratings are generally more stable, less susceptible to the news cycle and unlikely to move quickly in one direction or the other.”

But Dominos headquarters still seems to be getting in its own way, with apparent fear of making a bad situation worse. They’ve made it difficult to find the company’s response on its own Web site. It first requires an educated guess, clicking on the tiny font link “Corporate Info” at the bottom of the homepage, then finding a brief blurb “To Our Customers”, clicking on that and finally seeing the
full statement. That statement includes the video Dominos USA President Patrick Doyle posted on youtube.com. This message should be loud and clear on the company homepage.

Remaining “under the radar” in this type of situation virtually is impossible today. The Internet has removed that option, just as it has dispensed with deadlines. Everything is immediate and, while not always “fair” game, everything today is in play.

Learn from this experience. You cannot afford to wait. In fact, you need to plan today for tomorrow’s possible crisis. Consider all the situations you can anticipate and craft a plan for quick action. Dominos’ president’s video was effective. He could not prevent some damage to the company’s image, thanks to the immature and, possibly criminal, actions of two teenaged employees. However, immediate, positive response usually will restore a good reputation in the long term.

Remember the finger-in-the chili incident perpetrated on Wendy’s several years ago?

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