Everyone knows that behind every success story are several failures. We all know at least part of the Domino’s Pizza story. Actually there are a few stories here, from various different angles – including from a public relations, marketing and digital/social media communications standpoint. Domino’s took a number of falls a few years back, one being a tough hit for a prank its employees pulled while on the job. Still, the company has checked itself to such a degree that it has not only seemingly bounced back (Domino’s just won its third Pizza Today Chain of the Year Award), but the company is actually doing pretty well for itself (as evidenced by Domino’s stock recently hitting a 52-week high) in a number of significant areas– overall quality, service and its effort to provide transparency to consumers at large.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an event held by the Direct Marketing Association of Detroit and the Adcraft Club featuring Dennis Maloney, Domino’s Pizza VP of Multimedia Marketing (Maloney comes from Coca-Cola, where he was director of global e-commerce and tripled the size of the business while introducing several technologies to the company, including online reviews). Maloney shared not only the company’s PR/marketing goals and strategies, particularly focused on e-commerce (one quarter of all Domino’s Pizza orders now come from Online ordering and it expects that this may double in the next 5-10 – a huge part of the company’s overall growth), but also a number of ways the company is making itself transparent to consumers, including:

  • Addressing the issues (poor quality/recipe, fake ingredients, the YouTube scandal, etc.) – via its “Oh Yes We Did” campaign that directly call out the issues and highlights where Domino’s is responding to feedback, taking initiative to improve and calling customers to action.
  • Apologizing for its mistakes.
  • Recognizing where key audiences are sharing information – digital and social media – and developing a stronger presence there through engagement and interaction with customers.
  • Offering consumers a platform to share their experiences. Remember “Bryce?” Maloney stated that through the Domino’s “Show us your pizza” campaign (or “no more food porn” as he called it), consumers have posted thousands of great real photos of Domino’s Pizza, and only one out of every few hundred is a bad photo. And now they’re doing something similar with their chicken recipe. That’s a pretty great return on the risk they have taken.

Transparency, or the sincere attempt at it, is what influenced me as a consumer and public relations professional, to go out on a limb and try “the new and improved” Domino’s. I was pretty pleased. And part of the reason I was pleased is because it takes a lot of guts to put your brand out there, hoping that even the smallest offering of apology and honesty will help earn respect, loyalty, and even more importantly, that consumers will buy into it.

As a PR professional, I’m not naïve –because it can’t take back what has happened in the past, Domino’s has likely lost some customers forever. But, personally, if a company makes even a small effort to reinvent and rebuild its brand, and regain my trust through transparency, I’m going to try to meet it halfway – and it’s clear I’m not the only one who has met Domino’s there. Since its major fall, Domino’s has climbed to the second largest pizza chain after Pizza Hut, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it claims the top spot in the coming years. I’d suggest that more companies take transparency cues from Domino’s, regardless of whether they want to establish, recover or nurture loyalty with their target audiences.

— Jenn Korail is an account supervisor at Airfoil Public Relations, a high tech PR agency with offices in Detroit and Silicon Valley.