“We got blindsided by two idiots with a video camera and an awful idea,” said a Domino’s spokesman, Tim McIntyre, who added that the company was preparing a civil lawsuit. “Even people who’ve been with us as loyal customers for 10, 15, 20 years, people are second-guessing their relationship with Domino’s, and that’s not fair.”
In just a few days, Domino’s reputation was damaged. The perception of its quality among consumers went from positive to negative since Monday, according to the research firm YouGov, which holds online surveys of about 1,000 consumers every day regarding hundreds of brands.
“It’s graphic enough in the video, and it’s created enough of a stir, that it gives people a little bit of pause,” said Ted Marzilli, global managing director for YouGov’s BrandIndex.
The Domino’s experience “is a nightmare,” said Paul Gallagher, managing director and a head of the United States crisis practice at the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. “It’s the toughest situation for a company to face in terms of a digital crisis.”
In the most popular video, a woman who identifies herself as Kristy films a co-worker, Michael, preparing the unsanitary sandwiches.
“In about five minutes it’ll be sent out on delivery where somebody will be eating these, yes, eating them, and little did they know that cheese was in his nose and that there was some lethal gas that ended up on their salami,” Kristy said. “Now that’s how we roll at Domino’s.”
As the company learned about the video on Tuesday, Mr. McIntyre said, executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down. “What we missed was the perpetual mushroom effect of viral sensations,” he said.
In social media, “if you think it’s not going to spread, that’s when it gets bigger,” said Scott Hoffman, the chief marketing officer of the social-media marketing firm Lotame. “We realized that when many of the comments and questions in Twitter were, ‘What is Domino’s doing about it’ ” Mr. McIntyre said. “Well, we were doing and saying things, but they weren’t being covered in Twitter.”
The response from Dominos was slow at first, but they have become more aggressive. Patrick Doyle, President, Domino's U.S.A., responds (a tad stiltedly, but nonetheless):
Is it enough?
The (Pizza) Sauce
Your humble editor worked in fast food as a high school student (oh Chik-Fil-A, how I miss coming home from a shift smelling like a boneless breast of chicken!), and though jokes about such actions were common, I never saw it happen. If it did happen back in those simpler days, there was no internet in which to prove it. Idiots like the pair from Dominos would have had to videotape or photograph themselves doing the dirty deeds and pass it around to all their friends "manually"...obviously not even close to the power of the internet.
Time will tell if it significantly hurts sales or if it's a blip. One thing's for sure--ignoring this type of thing and hoping it will go away is no longer an option.
Dominos is trying to get ahead of the story, but is it enough--or too little too late?
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