By Todd Shelly
A Slice of Advice
Domino’s Pizza designed an entire ad campaign around admitting that, for years, they produced a lousy product. The first time I saw one of those ads, my initial thought was, “This is going to make the New Coke idea seem brilliant.” Admitting that you simply never cared about the product that you produced seemed like a bad idea to me.
Since that ad campaign started a few years ago, their stock has gone up over 200%, and their profits are at an all-time high. I failed to take into account the first rule of publicity: get people to notice you. Their marketing was so unique that it was nearly impossible to not pay attention and remember it.
I’m not advocating that you start a campaign admitting you were a horrible groomer but have now seen the light and promise to do a better job. In fact, let me be clear: don’t do that! However, there is an interesting point the ad campaign makes. If you’re spending the money and putting the effort into advertising, you might as well make sure you get the consumer’s attention.
There is also a more subtle lesson. People love a good redemption story. The person who admits a wrong and asks for forgiveness is often held in a higher regard than they were before. Ray Lewis of the Super Bowl Champion Baltimore Ravens, who went from arrogant murder suspect early in his career to a wise mentor by the time he retired, can attest to that. As a business owner, this can be applied to a variety of situations. For example, admitting to a customer, your boss, or even your employee that you have messed up and then identifying the steps you will take to correct a problem will probably bolster the relationship.
Domino’s continued to buck conventional wisdom with their “No” campaign. That was a series of advertisements where they broke all the rules by publically stating that the customer is not always right. Their “artisan” pizzas were specially designed to take all the taste combinations into account to create the perfect combination. If you asked to add a topping to it, you were told “no,” you could not. (You could ask to have toppings removed.) That follow-up campaign was also very effective.
The customer is not always right. You have probably already put your foot down when it comes to something involving the health of a dog. However, you may be more reluctant to take a strong stand when the pet owner wants you to do something that makes the dog look ridiculous. This may be the time to take a page from Domino’s and say “no” to the customer. Of course, you should do it in a tactful way. You are the expert, and it is your job to express to the customer why the dog should be groomed according to your expertise. If you are not convinced, remember two things. First, that dog is a walking billboard for the type of work that you do. Second, your competitor will be sure to point out that groom to anyone who will listen. (Admit it: you love pointing out how you would have groomed a dog better – it’s human nature. Besides, there is nothing wrong with a little self-promotion).
It is also important at times to side with your staff instead of the customer. It’s better to lose a bad customer than a good employee. Nothing will kill morale quicker than embarrassing an employee in front of a customer that is obviously out of line. Tell that customer “no,” and you will have gone a long way toward gaining the loyalty of your employee.
You can decide for yourself if Domino’s pizza is any better. Personally, I buy from their competitor, because I bought into the belief that better ingredients make a better pizza. However, I am impressed with how Domino’s used creative marketing to turn around their sales. I would like to offer this one last tidbit of advice: if you do choose to apply any of Domino’s methods to your business, remember to Avoid the Noid.
- Todd Shelly