Domino’s Pizza: Market Research Superfan

In my experience, market research isn’t always viewed as the most hot and exciting industry, and sometimes we take a back seat to our more attractive sibling: Advertising. So while most folks value the importance of understanding consumers’ attitudes and emotions toward their product or brand, the actual research doesn’t have quite the same wow factor as a beautifully constructed piece of creative.

But beginning last year, market research finally got its moment in the sun!

Domino’s Pizza launched a big-budget ad campaign that was mostly memorable for saying their own product tasted like crap. But what got me excited was how they learned that they had been pushing inferior pizza for all these years — good old-fashioned qualitative research. The TV spots featured focus group participants telling Dominos executives that their crust tasted “rubbery” and that the pizza was “low-quality and forgettable.” They quoted other unhappy critics saying the pizza was like “cardboard” with “processed cheese.”

While the campaign (created by our friends at Crispin Porter up in Boulder, CO) was pretty unorthodox, Domino’s credited the honest approach with doubling their profits in the quarter after it came out.

But Domino’s promotion of qualitative research didn’t stop with the initial campaign. Late last year they came out with yet another commercial starring a focus group, this time featuring participants talking about the lack of real cheese before being surprised to find themselves on the real-life dairy farm of one of Domino’s suppliers.

And if you’re still not convinced of the trend, just two months ago Domino’s came out with an ad featuring the chef behind their new chicken recipe. In the ad, CEO Jim Doyle shows us the delivery box for the chicken that has market research built right in! “It’s not great until our customers tell us it’s great,” he tells us.

(Quick aside – what kind of strange methodology have they invented here? Have garbagemen been enlisted to collect the results one greasy response at a time? How representative is pizza box sampling? So many questions…)

While most products that make it to market are tested against a target audience, I believe Domino’s is unique in highlighting this bit of sausage making in the ads themselves (pun intended). Perhaps they just hit on an advertising gimmick to help them stand out, or maybe some rouge researcher has infiltrated and overtaken the marketing department.

But one thing is clear: Domino’s Pizza loves them some market research.