Dorothy Crenshaw December 21, 2009 | 12:31:05

Domino’s Serves Up A New PR Recipe

Call it a mid-life crisis. On the eve of its 50th birthday, Domino’s is throwing its pizza recipe – and its business – up in the air. The company recently announced it has changed “everything” about its products, from crust to sauce. To top things off, it’s invited influential bloggers, some of whom have criticized its product – to comment on the changes.

Brand gurus have pointed out the risks involved in changing its core product – as embodied by examples like the new Coke launch. It’s true that regular customers are probably happily accustomed to their pizzas. And, then, there’s its vulnerability. Think of the food bloggers ready to heap on the snark, and pizza snobs with knives out…and not in a good way.

But, let’s face it. People order Domino’s for convenience, not for authenticity or even flavor. In fact, one category study ranks Domino’s number one among major pizza chains, but it comes in dead last for taste – tied with Chuck E Cheese. Pizza snobs aren’t likely to be customers anyway; my bet is that Domino’s wants into eat into the market share of its main competitors, and to win back lapsed customers who might be bored with its offering.

Most importantly, a proactive social media push generates the type of “free” coverage that advertising can’t accomplish. Customers will either like the new recipe, or they won’t. But it sure does generate buzz and make the marketing job easier.

What I’m savoring about the Domino’s strategy is its willingness to reach out to social media influencers – especially those who might not be fans – to spread the word, just months after the YouTube video crisis created by rogue employees.

It’s another indication that social media is an essential ingredient to a product launch today. And, for Domino’s, it’s not only in line with the current trend to use Web influencers to boost branding efforts, but it’s a bold move that shows confidence in its own decision.

It’s too early to tell if the Domino’s gamble to get a larger slice of the industry pie will pay off. The blogger reviews are starting to come in, though, and they’re okay. For blog reviews, that is. My philosophy there is a little like one of the comments I saw.  “Pizza is like sex. Even when it’s bad, it’s pretty good.”

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