Last year, in New York’s Central Park, an old man was selling “Banksy paintings” for $60 apiece. His booth was next to others, selling everything from second-hand books to fruit and vegetables.
During the entire day, only three paintings were sold, but what looked like any other booth was actually a provocative stunt by the artist Banksy himself. The works of art were real and their lucky new owners had snatched a bargain worth tens of thousands of dollars.
This stunt illustrates the essence of marketing: the difference between perceived and real value.
In the advertising world, brands have traditionally built perceived value by convincing people that a product is worth the amount on the price tag, by elevating its appearance or its basic attributes.
But there has been a shift in marketing consciousness over the past few years. We have entered a communications era in which consumers are more discerning than ever before, and trust and reputation are fundamental to building a brand community.
Telling the Truth: Domino’s Pizza
One brand that has embraced the change in culture is Domino’s pizza. When a video of Domino’s employees doing some awful things to customer’s pizzas went viral a few years ago, sales plummeted and the brand’s reputation was left in tatters.
In 2008, however, the arrival of a new chief marketing officer (CMO) changed the fortunes of the ailing restaurant chain. He knew that the brand needed a major marketing overhaul if it was going to survive and he was aware that, in the age of social media, covering up any flaws was simply not an option.
Rather than retreating into their cave, Domino’s turned the brand around, to become a pioneer of transparency.
The first thing the company did was to revisit their product ingredients in search of a new, improved recipe that customers would be proud to shout about. They then embarked on a somewhat risky advertising campaign.
Traditionally, advertising presents a polished and positive image of a product or brand, but Domino’s did the opposite; they believed that if they openly admitted to their weaknesses, they may be able to gain consumers trust. So they admitted they were terrible. They created a self-deprecating ad campaign, which centered on real Domino’s customers talking about how bad the old recipe pizza was.
Domino’s staff also appeared on film, sharing the secrets behind their new recipe, while reinforcing their ongoing commitment to quality, honesty, and openness. The video went viral and set the Domino’s social media pages alight, with customers praising their “refreshingly honest” approach.
The first quarter after the campaign launched, same-store sales were up 14.3 percent, which was the largest quarterly same-store sales jump ever recorded by a major fast-food chain.
Domino’s elevated their new product by unabashedly decrying the old one. In effect, they used their horrible old pizza and turned it into the best marketing piece they’ve ever had.
It was a bold move by Domino’s and has since become integral to the company culture and the brand.
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