"Good taste" is rarely used to describe great advertising, but Domino's is going to town with it.

It just announced that it has doubled its quarterly profits after telling its customers that it had fixed the taste of its pizzas. It didn't "improve" things or follow any other standard operating procedures of the marketing world; in fact, it violated some of the basic tenets of advertising, such as telling the truth.

Critics lumped it into the category of "mea culpa ads" (such as the billboards London's Evening Standard newspaper ran last year apologizing for the crappy quality of its content). Domino's went one better, though, by running documentary-style spots of consumers likening the crust to "cardboard" and topping to "ketchup." It was called extreme and even bizarre. Comedian Steve Colbert got in on the commentary

And then the campaign worked.

I am fascinated by this victory of substance over style. The Domino's campaign hasn't been particularly artful and certainly not groundbreaking. This is a good thing, since much of inventive marketing these days is nothing more than creative self-satisfaction passed off as strategy to clients willing to squander their money. Vast numbers of consumers are being encouraged to "engage" with content that has little to no relevance, meaning, or utility. Clicks mean nothing unless they go somewhere or, better yet, get people to do something. 

Like buy pizzas.

There are at least three qualities to this success story that might be instructive to others:

  • First, it acknowledged reality. How it did it was far less important than the fact that it successfully noted the context in which its customers were shopping and consuming, and their awareness of their choices and memories of subsequent experiences. The pizza did taste terrible, and fitting into this reality made whatever it said next more believable and relevant. Imagine if other campaigns didn't all but willfully ignore reality...could the Windows 7 launch have been helped with some nod to the fact that Vista was a stinker? On the flipside, isn't this exactly how Hollywood markets new motion pictures ("From the folks who brought you…")? 
  • Second, it imbued its offer with purpose. I can't count how many products are launched because they're "new and improved" without ever proving what that means. Domin'’s fixed a real problem...it wasn't its annual product line refresh or latest brand extension exercise. There are zillions of real, experiential problems that need fixing, and which warrant as much creative ingenuity as offering cheese topping that's cheesier. 13% more cleaning power? Whiter whites? Imagine if Tide came up the reasons why we needed to stop using the old goop and start using the new vs. ginning up new spin to sell stuff to us.
  • Third, the campaign dared action. It didn't present a POV or attempt to attach an emotion or idea to the brand (well, beyond the idea that it’s products sucked, which was already commonly known). Think "taste test" only for real. This is a powerful and frequently overlooked quality of successful advertising, as well as an important driver of meaningful social media interaction. A branding campaign that purports to get consumers to forward notice of the branding campaign to other consumers is, well, rather circular in its logic, isn't it? Test, analyze, contribute, and a host of other action verbs matter more. Buy matters most.

We can quibble about the execution of the campaign, and I'm pretty certain that it won't win any industry awards. I also don't think that the brain trust at Domino's cares one bit. They're too busy making -- and selling -- pizzas that taste good.

Image source: avlxyz

Original Post: http://dimbulb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/03/in-recognition-of-good-taste.html

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