As the Domino's Fall

By: Stephen Andrews, Vice President, Fusion PR

It’s hard to know where to even start with this one. Talk about damage to a brand in the most extreme way I think I’ve ever witnessed in nearly 20 years in this business.

I suppose we should begin by introducing you to our two “stars” of the Domino’s Pizza debacle. Kristy is an incredibly annoying young woman who is our budding cinematographer and Michael our disgusting sidekick / star who following Kristy’s direction, with some adlibbing, manages to convince me that every single negative stereotype about the millennial generation is more than true.

Don’t believe me? Have a look for yourself. Don’t plan on eating during, prior or even after you view this. And it should go without saying; I will NEVER eat at a Domino’s again.

In keeping with the food metaphors, this is a whole big bowl of wrong on so many levels, from the sponge scene representing a potential criminal violation to the insidious glee Kristy seems to take as Michael contaminates a small, but important piece, of our beloved American food supply chain.

From a messaging / brand standpoint this is a disaster. In any crisis situation a crisis is defined by a trigger event (thanks for posting on YouTube Kristy) and becomes a full-blown crisis once the reputation of the brand or business is affected negatively by the trigger event. 

Well, we’ve certainly got the trigger event and I believe it’s safe to assume these Michael and Kristy cinematographic masterpiece well continue to damage Domino’s reputation. So the communications challenge becomes dealing with this crisis, containing the crisis from doing further damage to Domino’s reputation (read – lost customers and revenue) and figuring out how to go about repairing the damage done and continuing to affect the Domino’s brand. 

The Internet is truly wonderful tool for massive communication, right now unfortunately for Domino’s, this will continue to fuel the crisis. Domino’s corporate communications department is attempting to address the crisis. You can take a peak into Tim McIntyre’s attempts to address and contain this crisis here

McIntyre is following the proper crisis procedures, though it seems somewhat hollow, or lacking true substance. For instance McIntyre is publishing responses / information on steps Domino’s is taking. They seem lackluster and more like he’s following a checklist than has any real stake in fixing this situation and mitigating damage to Domino’s. It appears McIntyre and Domino’s are merely going through the crisis motions. 

Here’s what Domino’s should be doing:

  • Tell us all exactly what happened, where it happened and how this could possibly happen.
  • Notify each and every customer who placed an order from that location during the time these videos were made.
  • Have a compensation package prepared for each and every customer during the times the video was shot.
  • Fully identify the culprits and let us know what actions are being taken, including firing, the possibi
    lity of criminal charges and what police or regulatory agencies have been invited to not only review the situation, but also inspect and declare “clean” this specific Domino’s and every other (yes each and every one the 50 year-old brand, Domino’s in some 60 countries) Domino’s around the world.

  • Tell us what actions have been taken to ensure this cannot EVER happen again.

All of these actions take time and the struggle back for reputation can and will take some time, for instance I love pizza and am fairly regular Domino’s customer here in NY. I will NEVER order another thing from Domino’s. This sentiment may, and probably will change over time, all the more likely if I feel Domino’s has taken the steps outlined above. 

As a final suggestion, from deep down inside the angry part of me… I’d like to see a follow-up video the smug Kristy and juvenile Michael at their court hearing, their first day in jail and a “where are they now,” follow-up piece detailing their rapid slide into homelessness and a lifetime of being forced to eat out of dumpsters. At least they’ll probably get cleaner, safer food.


6 Comments
  • Chris Michaels

    April 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm Reply

    UPDATE: It is refreshing to know that the people have been identified, LEOs are involved and that this particular franchise has maintained a good health record in the past.

    Regardless if this was a hoax, the mere risk of receiving contaminated foods is reason to bring this to public attention. The sponge incident or mucus transfers are easy ways to pass on Hepatitis, Escherichia coli, Staphilococcus and other infections that are carried by bodily fluids. By not issuing any statements, or notifying local patrons of a potential risk of health contamination, the company starts to appear as if they were trying to “cover” something up, rather than bring it to public attention.

  • Steve

    April 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm Reply

    Thanks for the update Chris. From a brand management standpoint this might very well provide Dominos with strong, “We’re the real victim here,” campaign thematic and messaging elements.

    It will be interesting to see if this fortuitous and fortunate information is true and, ultimately more important for Dominos, will the small but growing number of Americans aware of this problem accept this explanation.

    I still maintain the biggest mistake Dominos is making here is their failure to aggressively follow a comprehensive crisis plan. Tim McIntyre continues to be diligent in following up directly with individuals and blog properties. As I wrote earlier, he is basically doing the right things, just not hard enough. I suspect, based on my experiences, that some combination legal / corporate cabal is planning under the delusion that somehow this won’t spread to mainstream America because it won’t spread to mainstream media properties.

    So far it hasn’t really gotten away. I’ll be surprised if this doesn’t take off as a media story. Regardless of how this ultimately plays out, Dominos needs to begin managing this story now. Let’s face it, these things always spread.

    Now Dominos could launch the “We’re a victim campaign,” come clean, pun intended, by portraying themselves as the real victim and laud their corporate citizenship by being so upfront and honestly sharing their outrange at this attack upon their 50 years of brand investment.

    One of the common failings you see again and again in crisis management happens when a group within the organization believing the crisis will somehow disappear and people will ‘never know,’ occasionally gain sway over how the campaign will be managed. This inevitably exacerbates the crisis as various stakeholder groups feel the business has been less than forthright at best and concealing events at worst. This is a far, far more difficult campaign to manage and ironically poses much more risk to the brand, the exact situation management is attempting to avoid by implementing a partial crisis management strategy.

  • Anonymous

    April 14, 2009 at 5:38 pm Reply

    Namedropping.

    The Kristy in the video is possibly Kristy Lynn Hammond, a registered sex offender in N.C.

  • Bob Geller

    April 15, 2009 at 6:10 am Reply

    I smell another Kevin Smith movie coming out of this – perhaps I should not allude to “smell” or any of our senses after watching that YouTube video, which incidentally made the rounds of the morning news shows. Nice post!

  • Anonymous

    April 15, 2009 at 6:55 am Reply

    My wife has always refused to eat at take out pizza restaurants such as Domino’s, much to my consternation. Her reason…the young staff are not mature enough to maintain hygiene. I’ve lived with that for many years. Only now do I appreciate her wisdom.

  • Steve Andrews

    April 20, 2009 at 8:18 am Reply

    Dominos has posted a response by Patrick Doyle, president of Dominos USA. You can view his profile here http://people.forbes.com/profile/j-patrick-doyle/26878

    You can view Domino’s response here
    http://www.dominosbiz.com/Biz-Public-EN/Extras/Cares/

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