Much like the soft elastic dough used as the foundation for which their mainstay product is built, Domino’s Pizza has shaped their marketing strategy into a juggernaut that has enjoyed nearly half a century of success. Currently a market follower—second only to Pizza Hut—Domino’s longevity and rapid rate of growth is due largely to their ability to establish, maintain, and remain true to their original marketing mix. Domino’s success, however, is due to the fact that they have been able to differentiate themselves on a very crowded playing field.
Most companies, at least the successful ones, concentrate on the four Ps that compose their marketing mix. Albeit product, price, place, and promotion are the cornerstone of many marketing strategies—Domino’s Pizza has leveraged the four Cs, or consumer’s viewpoint, to establish their marketing mix. Customer solution, cost, convenience, and communication are considered each time Domino’s Pizza introduces a new product or initiates a new promotion.
The science of marketing was the last thing on the minds of the Monaghan brothers when they borrowed $500 to purchase Dominick’s Pizza in 1960. With a down payment of $75, Tom and Jim Monaghan took ownership of a small pizza shop in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Their sights were firmly set on building a dynasty of three locations and monopolizing pizza delivery in a small concentrated area. From inception, the Domino’s logo contained three dots. These dots, still present on the current logo, represent Tom Monaghan’s original vision of opening three locations and develop a triangulation delivery strategy (Miranda, 2009).
In the early years of business, pizza was the only item on the menu at Domino’s. Side items were never considered to be a part of the menu. Remaining sensitive to competitors and allowing competition to affect product pricing is a classic trait of a market follower (Kotler & Anderson, 2008). Domino’s was eventually forced to add medium and extra large sizes to remain competitive.
Domino’s Pizza has chosen a market follower strategy. Product, one of the four Ps of the marketing mix, is an area where the market leader continues to influence Domino’s. Competition forces changes to the market followers. The first change to the product offering at Domino’s happened almost three decades after they opened. In 1989, Domino’s Pizza introduced a deep-dish pizza (Laukens, 2010). While it would stand to reason that the new addition to the menu was an answer to a competing product, Domino’s had entered a market where deep-dish was the only acceptable version of a pizza.
Market research had revealed that Domino’s market demographic was culturally diverse. Domino’s responded by adding several other variations of the basic pizza. Hand tossed and thin crust pizzas were added to the menu to satisfy demand in specific market areas and remain competitive. Domino’s keeps a watchful eye on the consumer reaction to specific product and pricing. The ability to see their company from the buyer’s viewpoint is a significant advantage for any company.
Domino’s Pizza listens to feedback from the consumers, and at the same time occasionally glances over the shoulder of their competition for inspiration and influence. From the customers’ feedback and buying habits, Domino’s is able to glean information to help influence direction. Domino’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats have changed many times over. The entire pizza industry has evolved into a highly competitive array of corporate giants. And yet, it remains important to perform a SWOT analysis as often as possible.
Domino’s strengths include their ability to remain unscathed, although influenced, by their competition. Moreover, their visionary approach to creating a better consumer experience by developing better manufacturing methods is at the foreground. Hard work, persistence, and thinking outside the pizza box have been Domino’s formula for success. Although not the market leader, Domino’s Pizza is recognized as the leader of innovation. The pizza industry is crowded with businesses trying to outdo one another with a product that is not well received if strayed too far from the original. Domino’s decided to create a value proposition beyond the product. Tom Monaghan’s goal of perfecting the pizza delivery was tested when Domino’s once again raised the bar. In 1986, Domino’s Pizza created a slogan and spawned an aggressive advertising campaign in an attempt to differentiate themselves from other pizza businesses.
Taking advantage of an impatient consumer base, Domino’s touted, “you get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.” Competition scrambled to find an answer, but without the automation invented and deployed by Domino’s it would be impossible. Domino’s was the first to use a production assembly line method for producing pizzas. A belt-driven pizza oven produced a continuous stream of pizzas allowing the manufacturing and delivery process to become manageable, and for the most part—predictable.
Domino’s rode the wave of success for many years. Convenience for the consumer was a definite advantage. During this time, Domino’s Pizza opened several thousand new franchises and was taking over the market. Then as quickly as the innovative wildfire had spread, it was extinguished. The market momentum was quickly lost when a woman in St. Louis was involved an automobile accident with a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver. News turned into bad publicity and in 1993 the 30-minute guarantee was discontinued.
Domino’s strength, the ‘S’ in a SWOT analysis, was their ability to produce and deliver a product faster and more efficiently than their competition. Not promoting the 30-minute guarantee created a level playing field allowing the focus to shift toward product and price. However, Domino’s had continued the use of their belt-driven pizza production oven and therefore better positioned to compete in the pizza price wars.
Domino’s Pizza exposed several weaknesses, the ‘W’ in a SWOT analysis, in their approach to advertising and marketing. A short-lived villainous character named The Noid was used to promote the fact that Domino’s could deliver a fresh hot pizza even on the coldest days. They were able to perform such a feat, when others struggled, because they invented a different type of pizza box. The message was not that Domino’s Pizza recognized the fact that no one wants a cold pizza and offered a remedy, but rather an annoying fictitious character was lurking in hopes of ruining your pizza. The Noid was short-lived marketing trend that caused more confusion than confidence.
One important attribute of a good company is the ability to learn from past experiences and change with the times. Domino’s quickly recognized a need to innovate, and once and for all solve the problem of cold pizza delivery. This time, however, Domino’s Pizza would show the world that they are the trendsetters from which all others grasp firmly the coattails. Crisper crust, bubbling cheese, and hotter topping were the new promise spoken loudly in Domino’s advertising. This was made possible by their invention of the HeatWave® bag. This new technology, and the creative marketing, caused Domino’s competition to sweat. Once again, Domino’s became consumer centric and focused on a better customer experience as opposed to getting caught up in product and pricing battles.
Opportunities, the ‘O’ in a SWOT analysis, are seemingly limitless for Domino’s Pizza. They have been able to succeed in non-traditional markets by creating a cultural-specific product mix. Today there are over 8000 stores in 50 international markets. Although only producing what is classified as consumer products, the marketing considerations in all markets are the same—convenience. It is rare for a consumer to plan days in advance to have a pizza, but instead decides at a moments notice. The core benefit, at least from Domino’s perspective, is convenience.
A market niche competitor, California Pizza, has attempted to attract some of the frozen pizza consumers by offering variations of their most popular products. This seems to be a shortsighted attempt at trying to capture some of the market share. If Domino’s Pizza were to manufacture and distribute their product in the frozen food aisle, their current business would change. As with the California Pizza Kitchen product expansion, the original product is not viewed the same. While there are plenty of opportunities for Domino’s to grow, expanding their product offering beyond what can be produced and delivered in the same timeframe as their pizza would have a counter-effect on success in the market. Chicken wings and various deserts were added as an answer to a competitor’s advantage.
The final element in a SWOT analysis is the identification of threats in the market. Every competitor is recognized as a threat. Becoming too diverse with the product offering can also be perceived as a threat. In both cases, it is wise to understand the cause and effect associated with adding product, making marketing promises, and expanding into too many markets. There will always be a tipping point from which recovery is futile. A bad customer experience is no longer shared between a close-knit group of family and friends. Blogs can influence buying decisions and become a threat to the Domino’s brand.
Social media has become a huge part of society. The early adopters molded social media into a peer-to-peer communication channel. Unlike traditional broadcast mediums, social media offers two-way communication. An individual, or a business, can post information and receive instant feedback. This form of communication is a perfect fit for an impatient society. However, as Domino’s discovered in April 2009, social media can unravel many years of branding.
A video produced on a hand-held camera was posted on a popular social media site. The video contained disturbing footage of two Domino’s Pizza employees tainting products by various questionable unsanitary methods (Clifford, 2009). In only a few days, the video was viewed over one million times. The Domino’s Pizza brand was in serious jeopardy. Nearly fifty years after Domino’s Pizza was started, they found themselves under a microscope.
Domino’s marketing team used a proactive approach to thwart permanent damage. Quickly realizing the extent of the damage and the affected demographic, Domino’s created a Twitter account to handle the customer comments and introduced their own video featuring an explanation and public apology from the CEO. Domino’s ability to quickly adapt to a changing society afforded them the opportunity to devise a damage control plan and dilute a potentially devastating situation.
For the most part, the Internet has become the hottest new medium. Domino’s recognized the power of the Internet as a consumer conduit well in advance of their competition. They leveraged this new channel in 1996 by introducing the Domino’s Pizza website. Not nearly as sophisticated as the current website, and bound by the limited technologies of the early Internet, Domino’s used their first website to expand their brand and specific marketing messages across an untapped and unmeasured channel. In the same year the corporate website was launched, Domino’s boasted sales in excess of 3 billion dollars. Domino’s has become comfortable using the Internet as a marketing channel.
The ability to identify—and remain true to—the four Ps in their marketing mix is the primary reason Domino’s Pizza has endured and survived many decades of a fickle economy and a demanding consumer. Their product mix has evolved to include pizza, salads, sandwiches, chicken wings, and specialty desserts. The quality has been improved over the years, including a recent overhaul of their pizza crust and sauce recipes. Their brand name remains strong regardless of the recent challenges of managing public relations through social media channels.
Domino’s product pricing is competitive with others in the industry. Campaigns and promotions are designed to not only attract new customers, but also to retain existing ones. Over 8000 locations promise convenience for Domino’s consumers. It is difficult to find an area not identified serviced by a Domino’s Pizza franchise. Currently, Domino’s is positioned firmly within the market true to their original intention.
Consistency in products between franchises, reading the pulse of the consumer, and setting the pace for all others to follow is at the core of Domino’s success. The future will depend greatly on the ability of Domino’s marketing team to remain proactive, centered, and focused on the customers’ needs. It will always be important to realize shifts in the target market and leverage new opportunities to expand their customer base.
Domino’s has broadened and narrowed the range of ages of their target audience. During the second attempt at their “30-minutes or less” campaign, Domino’s concentrated on a target audience of 30 years old and younger. A critical marketing mistake was not realizing sooner that thirty percent of their original demographic—49 years old and under—remembered the first 30-minute guarantee in a positive light. The latest marketing efforts epitomize everything that Domino’s has strived to create. They will always position themselves to make decisions based not only on the traditional four Ps of marketing, but also from the viewpoint of their consumer. Using comments, criticism, and complaints as fuel—Domino’s recently introduced their pizzas reinvented. Domino’s has once again differentiated itself in the market. The pizza pendulum of success has swung toward Domino’s Pizza.
Clifford, S. (2009). Video prank at Domino’s taints brand. Retrieved January 25, 2010, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/business/media/16dominos.html
Kotler, P. & Armstrong, G. (2008). Principals of marketing. Pearson Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
Laukens, D. (2010). The history of Domino’s Pizza. Retrieved January 23, 2010, from http://www.recipepizza.com/the_history_of_dominos_pizza.htm
Miranda, E. (2009). Internet marketing – Franchises: Domino’s Pizza. Retrieved January 23, 2010, from http://www.wsicorporate.com/article/Franchises_dominos_pizza