Reputation Game Changer

Once upon a time, Domino's pledged "pizza in 30 minutes." Now Domino's has launched an advertising campaign that admits its pizza tasted bad, but is now much improved.

It wouldn't have been that hard – or violated the sacred rites of mission statements – to make the original pledge "good pizza in 30 minutes." But Domino's thrived on quick service, regardless of taste – or apparently delivery driver safety.

However, in the age of the Internet, bad taste gets around pretty quickly. When you see post after post from customers complaining that your product tastes like cardboard or worse, it makes sense to listen – and to act.

Domino's incoming president, Patrick Doyle, says, "The old days of trying to spin things simply doesn't work anymore."

Fortunately, Doyle didn't fall for the latest spin trick of trying to bury bad news underneath the chatter of happy-feet press releases. Doyle took stock of Domino's reputation and concluded it needed to be re-engineered around quality, not instant gratification. He displayed the self-confidence to share actual complaints in an appeal to customers to give his product another try.

Domino's will still feature fast pizza. But now it will strive to ensure its pizza tastes appreciably better than frozen pizza that can be microwaved at home in far less than 30 minutes.

Some brand management experts question Domino's new strategy. They say it may confuse Domino's long-time customers.

On the contrary, the new strategy is aimed at responding to customer complaints. It is a great example of a reputation game-changer. It is what reputation management should be.

There is a lesson here about Toyota's hesitant response to growing complaints about sticky accelerators, failed brakes and other problems connected to driver safety. Admitting your mistake is the first step. Fixing the problem is the all-important next step that determines whether you keep or lose customer loyalty.