How Domino's Used Self-Mockery to Boost Sales

A new recipe and changing customer demographics also helped

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Domino's Pizza has seen sales suffer in recent years and wanted to turn things around. So they adopted an unusual rebranding strategy: self-deprecation. At the beginning of 2010, Domino's launched an ad campaign that outright mocked the low quality of its pizza but pledged that a new recipe would surprise consumers. But the reviewers weren't the only ones happily surprised. The company, based in Michigan, was greeted this week with reports that show an 18.4 percent increase in sales (14.3 percent in same-store sales) and a 3.2 percent boost in net income, all in the first quarter of this year. How did they do it?

  • Demographics of New Customers  The Detroit Free Press' Katherine Yung reports, "Domino's revamped pizzas are attracting more suburban and higher-income customers to the chain, [CEO J. Patrick] Doyle said. 'Consumers are loving it,' he said. 'We're feeling pretty good about where we are at.'"
  • Why It's Especially Impressive  USA Today's Bruce Horovitz explains, "Domino's instant turnaround is almost without precedent in the fast-food industry. ... Even more impressive, the turnaround is taking place at a time when the $22 billion pizza-delivery business — quashed by the recession and vastly improved frozen-pizza technologies — fell 3%, researcher Technomic estimates."
  • 'Self-Loathing-Filled Reinvention'  The Awl's Maura Johnson scoffs, "The great self-loathing-filled reinvention of the Domino's Pizza recipe was big business for the Michigan-based purveyor of cheese and dough. ... Domino's head pizza-tosser Thomas Doyle said that 'all of it' was pretty much the result of the revamp and its attendant advertising blitz. Three months from now, expect to see similar smiley-faced proclamations from the Yum! Brands camp." (That's a reference to the owner of KFC, responsible for the much-discussed Double Down.)
  • The Strategy's Other Prong  The Wall Street Journal's Joan Solsman finds it. "The company also broadened its advertising budget and ventured into new foods such as pastas, desserts and sandwiches to attract lunch business and win market share when consumers grew reluctant to spend on dinner deliveries during the recession."
  • Context: How The Restaurant Biz Is Doing  Reuters' Lisa Baertlein checks in. "Restaurant shares have made bigger gains than the entire market with signs that the U.S. economy is healing and consumers are starting to spend again. The Dow Jones U.S. Restaurant and Bars index .DJUSRU, fell 2.4 percent as investors fretted that the financial rescue package for Greece may not be enough to prevent a broader sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone," she writes. "Some analysts were looking for a U.S. same-store sales leap of about 20 percent, and investors are now focused on how sustainable such gains will be."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.