Remember when Domino’s dropped “Pizza” from its name back in 2012? You wouldn’t know it by all the signs with the old logo saying “Domino’s Pizza” still hanging out at its franchisee locations. Enter Domino’s new social media campaign encouraging the public to shame locations yet to embrace the new logo, arming them with the hashtag #logoinformants and the promise of free pizza for a year.
Before we start the play-by-play on Domino’s naming and messaging strategy—can we just take a minute to savor the delicious irony of this? Domino’s wants to be known for more than pizza so much that they are willing to entice customers to narc on franchisees with…wait for it…pizza—the very product they are trying to distance themselves from. Hilarious.
Anyway, let’s carry on with brand analysis of this move.
The good: name-dropping
We are big fans of this type of name-dropping. In 2007, Apple dropped “Computers” from its name paving the way for greater innovation in everything from phones to tablets, even watches. In 2012, Starbucks decaffeinated its name by removing “Coffee” from its logo, a move that perhaps overshadowed the Domino’s name-drop that year. All of these brands did one very simple thing when they named themselves that set them up for future success—they treated category generic terms like computers, coffee, and pizza separately from their trademark names. The descriptors are there in the background clarifying what the brand offers but not dominating the conversation, easily disposable if their ambitions expand beyond their category. A decisive competitive advantage compared to brands like Computer Associates, Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut who embedded category descriptors into their trademark names and are still carrying them into the future like a millstone around the brand that limits potential for category expansion. Pizza Hut is forever limited to pizza. Their ill-fated attempt to make “The Hut” nickname happen in June of 2009 was met with so much ridicule that they were forced to issue a backpedaling press release claiming the switch was not a formal name change, but just light-hearted part of their marketing efforts.
The less good: the innovation and messaging strategy supporting the name change
Changing a name is a big deal, and will buy lots press attention for a very brief moment in time. So the brand better be able to make the most of that moment by backing up the name change with big innovations. By the time Apple dropped Computers from its name, they were already leaders in the MP3 and mobile phone markets. The change felt more like an obvious afterthought. Compare that to Starbucks who used naming to set the stage for exploring new business opportunities, but has yet to innovate in a meaningful way beyond coffee. Three years have passed, and if they want to innovate big, they no longer have the marketing lever of a name change to pull to rally attention and permission. Unlike Starbucks, Domino’s has the innovation to justify a name change (chicken, sandwiches, pasta, cheesy bread). Why isn’t a name change and a respectable pipeline of innovation enough to win the hearts and minds of consumers and franchisees? The fact that old signs are still up means that franchisees haven’t bought into the brand beyond pizza. The fact that they are incenting tattling consumers with pizza rather than chicken or pasta indicates that consumers haven’t bought the big idea either (and Domino’s knows it).
A humble recommendation:
Rather than engaging consumers in an online semantic argument about brand names, Domino’s should put innovations at the center of its messaging with consumers. When the brand repeats the mantra of “not just pizza” over and over in social media, it actually works against them. Every third word the consumer hears is “pizza.” And they hear it in a negative tone. The message undercuts their core offering without promoting their innovations in the process. The conversation should transition from the negative of what the brand is not into the positive of everything it is. Otherwise, they may win the battle of signage but lose the bigger campaign for hearts and minds.