Domino's the disruptor?

Recently Domino’s Pizza announced they were changing the recipe for their pizza.

In the above-linked USA Today article, consultant Howard Gordon mentions “I don’t know of any (restaurant) company that has attempted this.” In any industry, changing a winning formula seems like business “suicide.”  Gordon later makes a powerful statement; “Once you’ve built a brand, that’s your brand,” says Gordon. “To change it means that everything you’ve stood for isn’t right.”

This youtube video is a short documentary that was edited into a commercial I recently saw on TV.  It tells the story of how Domino’s received feedback from customers about their pizza (via Twitter users, mostly) and took those criticisms and used them as motivation to make a better pizza.  Dominos has set up an exclusive website for the campaign where customers can view the documentary as well as a Twitter feed featuring tweets about the new pizza.  Obviously they haven’t filtered or changed the tweets because some of them are pretty critical of the pizza.  One such tweet says “Dominos new pizza crust recipe is like eating really buttery, garlicy bread…fail. Bad breath factor, over the top!”  Yikes.  Again, this is all part of the campaign, so I suppose you have to take some bad with the good feedback.

So why make such a drastic change?

Many companies try to improve the quality of their product or even advertise they have a “new and improved” product.  However, publicly admitting in one of your advertisements that people didn’t like your product is either sheer madness or pure genius.  Perhaps this means Domino’s is the first mature company that will drastically change how others do business.  There are numerous companies in the mature stage of the product/company lifecycle.  Maybe when growth stagnates, you throw a “hail mary” and go for it all? Due to the unprecedented nature of Domino’s Pizza’s strategy, there isn’t really much to compare it to.  Again, maybe since no one has thought to do this before, they are on to something here.

Think of the costs associated with doing something like this.  I’m sure there were plenty of focus groups (some were featured in the documentary), new product development, marketing research, advertising, etc.  This was not just an ordinary marketing campaign.  I can only guess that either the execs at Domino’s thought the amount of publicity a “stunt” like this would create would exceed the value put in to the change or they were truly desperate to make significant change to turn around the company.  What other reason would there be for alienating your best customers that loved your pizza and have kept you in business for fifty years?  I would think they’d have to gain _many_ new customers and retain a lot of their long-time ones to make this venture a success.