07 October, 2010

The Intern Alumni Program: I'll Take a Large Anti-Marketing Ad with Cheese & Pepperoni, Please

Sometimes our interns refuse to go away, and honestly, that's freaking awesome. Our former intern, Ashly, actually started this piece over the summer - then reminded me about nine times since that I kept forgetting to post it. --George

Pizza is a serious slice of American culture. According to pizzaware.com, about 93% of Americans eat some form of it at least once a month. The gooey goodness is currently a $35 billion dollar industry that continues to grow each year, and its marketing tactics are everywhere.

I admit it. I’m guilty of shouting, “Get the door, it’s Domino’s!” when the delivery girl comes with a steaming hand-tossed crust topped with pepperoni and green peppers. I’ve even probably done a little “Papa’s in the house!” dance when the pizza boy shows up with a spicy Italian specialty. Can you blame me? I’m a college student. Pizza ads always manage to find me. I am assaulted by the “Oh, Big Papa” jingle and that tacky gold Camaro on a daily basis.

You've probably noticed that recently Domino's gave their pizza, as well as their advertising strategy, a delicious makeover. Two successful branding ingredients I can appreciate. The franchise took a fresh approach to anti-competition advertising through a deconstruction of the food marketing industry.

Domino’s first TV spots exploited the inner workings of a focus group and noted that many other companies choose to ignore negative feedback they receive from such research endeavors. This kicked off their completely new recipe along with a recentered effort to instill a sense of trust in the consumer. Domino’s listens to you, so why cook that frozen pizza you don't even like? They can deliver the fresh, warm pizza you’ve been waiting for. It’s your pizza formed from your opinions. Of course, you will like it.

This reverse-psychology campaign is positioned to make the consumer feel involved and intelligent; therefore, reinforcing confidence in their brand choice. Domino’s more directly attacked its largest competitor, Papa John’s, in its puffery awareness ads. They publicized a lawsuit Papa John’s was involved in regarding the puffery in their slogan. Domino’s educated consumers on the definition of puffery (see ad below), revealed Papa John’s did no research to conclude they were the “best,” and plastered the legal documents all over the Internet.

Domino’s was not even involved in this lawsuit. Pizza Hut was, but I guess they didn't see the marketing opportunity. Domino's used it as a way to showcase the newly positive results from their own consumer research. These ads also gave freshly enlightened consumers fuel to feel confident in attacking other brands for using puffery. The central puffery awareness spot ends with a Domino’s chef revealing results of a taste test grinning, “Our pizza tastes better and that’s not puffery, that’s proven.”

A campaign that revolves around exposing traditional marketing tactics is relatively new for the food industry. However, it has been executed elsewhere. The Dove Real Beauty campaign and thetruth.com ads (check out their Shards o’ Glass Pops ads) are just a few examples.

Critics are actually referring to Domino’s latest tactic as the “Real Beauty” campaign, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Dove’s award-winner. Domino’s uses TV spots to reveal the secrets of food styling for print and television ads. Their YouTube channel offers a more detailed look at torching pepperoni edges and bolting pizzas to tables in order to get the perfect cheese pull.

The mission of this particular campaign is to generate a sentiment that Domino’s pizza doesn’t need to be retouched or plastic in order to make your mouth water like the competitor’s pizza. I have to admit, when I first saw this commercial I flashed to the disappointment of once opening a box of Papa John’s. I felt betrayed by the toppings on the delectable print ad that caused me to order it in the first place. Let's just say, sausage is not supposed to look like animal droppings.

This “Real Beauty” campaign has a contest attached to it, which lets consumers submit real pictures of their Domino’s pizza. The winners will be compensated and their photos used in Domino’s advertisements. No more marketing tricks for these guys. They are going all natural. This epitomizes Domino’s 2010 marketing strategy.

Domino's looks like the better brand by shining a light on the fraudulent-type advertising competitors use. Now this strategy is supposed to build stronger brand loyalty by allowing consumers more control over the communicative relationship they share with the franchise. Has it worked? Well, the photo contest has thousands of entries. I can appreciate advertising that works. However, I don't think it's spectacular. I assume consumers feel they possess a better understanding of marketing tricks and have developed a stronger trust that Domino's won't be pulling a fast one on them. But as far as I'm concerned, Domino's has done just that. It seems smart. The anti-advertising sentiment is a scheme in itself. It's all marketing, but people are still falling for it.

When the hype is over, there will just be another reason to change the pizza and resurrect the brand. The real proof is in the pizza. The taste has changed, but not dramatically. They brushed a little garlic and herb butter on the less baked crust to battle the popular "cardboard crust" complaint and gave the sauce a little kick with red pepper and of course, more garlic. The next time they change their recipe, it will be because the crust is too doughy, the sauce too spicy, and it's the number one cause of bad breath. As the taste of this campaign gets stale, so will the consumer sentiment.

You may continue salivating if you click here to find out more information about Domino’s latest campaign, or you could just order a pizza for the office.

--Ashly Oehrl, Ad Hungry Former Intern

Recently from the Intern Sweatshop: 3 Ways Video Games Outplay Other Brands

Also from the Intern Alumni Program: Sex Sells in Thailand. Kinda.

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