There are lots of discussions on whether Domino’s is brilliantly innovative or colossally mistaken in the redesign of its pizza with new crust, sauce, and cheese. It’s obviously a multi-dimensional brand question involving both major product and communications decisions.
Not having eaten Domino’s for years, I don’t know whether it’s better or not. Instead, the question here is how to creatively present a major strategy change to customers? Do you do a mea culpa, as Domino’s has done, saying we’ve heard you, and it’s necessary to change? Or do you take an even more aggressive stance and sell against what you were doing previously?
While some commentators have said Domino’s is doing the latter, it depends on what communications you’re watching.
Its 4-plus minute “documentary” version of the story presents a Domino’s message of, “We’ve heard your concerns and have been working hard to address them.” Editing to sound bites for a TV spot, however, pushes the message closer to, “We sold you crappy food, and said it was good.” By the time comedians and the public get a shot, it’s, “We suck, and frankly, we didn’t care…until now.”
Here are three communications take-aways from Domino’s to consider when implementing a major change:
- Go out of your way to NEVER sell against what you used to do. Violating this simply makes you look stupid (“If you knew you sucked, why were you doing it in the first place?”). Your loyal customers will also FEEL stupid (“They say they suck; what does that make us for liking what they did?”).
- There’s a fine creative balance since your focused change message will change based on who’s shaping it. Even if you followed the first lesson, somebody outside or inside your own organization will wind up messing up the message (intentionally or unintentionally), ensuring you will be selling against your history.
- This issue isn’t limited to brand changes and turnarounds. It applies to internal programs, reorganizations, career changes, etc. When you’re making a dramatic change, really think through your strategy and what you really want to offer as the rationale.
The Conan-Leno Tonight Show debacle at NBC is a relevant example of these three fundamentals. I’ve never been a big Conan fan, but watched during his last week to see how he handled the messaging relative to the three lessons above:
- Conan didn’t message against the past, as much as against what the future held. He skewered NBC, but focused more on the ridiculousness of the current moment and future changes in forcing his decision to leave.
- His well-known ironic, wink-of-the-eye comedy style gave him lots of room to play with the situation. And as his late-night comedy competitors weighed in on the story, he took an underdog role, laying claim to being the most respectful defender of The Tonight Show brand legacy!
- Amid this significant brand and career change, Conan used the last moments before his highly-compensated, highly-enforced silence, not to savage NBC, but to talk instead about the pride in his 20 year association with NBC. Watch the excerpt below from his final episode to see a tremendously classy way of messaging a nasty change and doing it with dignity.
Periods of major change are great proving grounds for brand marketers. Go to school on these two very prominent examples for approaches and learnings to use in future turnarounds you face. – Mike Brown