Domino's nightmare .. A lessons for marketers

It's a PR nightmare scenario: A national fast-food chain has to respond to a video, spreading rapidly online, that shows one of its employees picking his nose and placing the result in the food he's making.

That's exactly what Domino's , the nation's largest pizza delivery chain, has spent the past several days doing.

Two employees — fired and facing charges — posted a video on YouTube on Monday that shows one of them doing gross things to a Domino's sub sandwich he is making. Among them: sticking cheese pieces up his nose and passing gas on the salami.

The video had been viewed more than 550,000 times by Wednesday.

For Domino's, the PR response hasn't been easy. The video reflects some of the worst fears consumers have about food purchased from restaurants. The video and discussion of it has moved on to Facebook, Twitter and dozens of other social-networking sites.

But Domino's is getting fairly high marks from social-networking and crisis-management gurus about its response.

And marketers are getting an instant lesson in the dangers of an online world where just about anyone with a video camera and a grudge can bring a company to its knees with lightning speed.
"Nothing is local anymore," Domino's spokesman Tim McIntyre says. "That's the challenge of the Web world. Any two idiots with a video camera and a dumb idea can damage the reputation of a 50-year-old brand."

An arrest warrant was issued Wednesday for Michael Anthony Setzer, 32, of Conover, N.C., and Kristy Lynn Hammonds, 31, of Taylorsville, N.C., for food tampering, a felony in North Carolina, police say. McIntyre says Domino's is mulling a lawsuit.

Here are key things experts say marketers can do to quickly catch and respond effectively to similar social-networking attacks:
• Monitor social media. Big companies must actively watch Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social sites to track conversations that involve them. That will help uncover potential crises-in-the-making, says Brian Solis, a new-media specialist and blogger at PR2.0.
• Respond quickly. Domino's responded within hours. "They responded as soon as they heard about it, not after the media asked, 'What are you going to do?' " says Lynne Doll, president of The Rogers Group, a crisis-management specialist.

very smart.. using same media

Patrick Doyle, President, Domino's U.S.A., responds to video of (now former) Domino's team members.
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• Respond at the flashpoint. Domino's first responded on consumer affairs blog The Consumerist, whose activist readers helped track down the store and employees who made the video. Then it responded on the Twitter site where talk was mounting. "Domino's did the right thing by reinstituting the trust where it was lost," Solis says.
• Educate workers. It's important that all employees have some media and social-media training, says Ross Mayfield, co-founder of Socialtext, which advises companies on new media.
• Foster a positive culture. Workers who are content and customers who like your product are far less likely to tear down a company online, PR guru Katie Delahaye Paine says. "This would be a lot less likely to happen at places like Whole Foods."
• Set clear guidelines. Companies must have clear policies about what is allowed during working hours — and what isn't, Doll says. "It won't prevent everyone from breaking the rules, but at least they'll know what the rules are."
As a result of the incident, Domino's is looking at banning video cameras in stores, McIntyre says.

Recap & learnings
Corporate Crisis Management: is defined as an unexpected event that creates uncertainty and threatens an organization’s priority goals and public image.

Managers facing crises as such consider the possible consequences of their reaction. On one side - reacting to uncontrolled events may foster further awareness to the problem. On the other side, ignoring such events may result in risking social legitimacy (the firm may be perceived as being irresponsible, dishonest, or acting in a manner that exhibits little concern for the community).

Bradford and Garrett (1995) investigated the effectiveness of five different corporate responses to a crisis event. The possible responses were (a) no response, (b) denial, (c) offer an excuse, (d) agree that the firm caused the event but argue that the severity of the event is less than publicized, and (e) agree that the event is severe and accept responsibility for the event.

The possible conditions were (a) the firm can provide evidence that they committed no unethical action,
(b) the firm can provide evidence that they had no control over the event,
(c) the firm can provide evidence that the event is less severe than suggested in the media,
and (d) the firm accepts responsibility for the event.

Across the different conditions, the “accept responsibility” response was found to be the optimal communication strategy.
Other research in this field indicate that consumer expectations about the firm (consumers with a preexisting favorable opinion of a firm vs those who lacked a preexisting favorable opinion - Dawar & Pillutla, 2000) and their commitment to the brand ( low versus high commitment - Ahluwalia et al. , 2000) moderates the effects of negative publicity.

In this week Domino’s Pizza crisis, the firm decided to react to the event (taking 48 hours respond). They have presented an apology, suggested information (both public and personal) and a promise for taking future steps. Interestingly, it chose unconventional media channels to confront their consumers, the same channels in which the crisis found its way through - social media interactions.

Consumer research will be needed to test consumers’ perceptions and behaviors in few months time. Currently, it seems that although the images were shocking, the company has succeeded in reacting well to the event.

Online trend tools indicate that the buzz around it lost an interes...

twitter trends:

blog citations:

search volume:

Description of the crisis:
On the night of April 13, two Domino’s employees engaged in an act of food violation posted their acts on YouTube (putting cheese in their nose, blowing mucous on a sandwich etc). The videos went viral online, viewed by millions of people until blocked.

Reactions to the crisis:
April 14:
1. The employees were fired and warrants were issued for their arrest.
2. Domino’s has also posted a statement on its corporate website.
“The opportunities and freedom of the internet is wonderful, but it also comes with the risk of anyone with a camera and an internet link to cause a lot of damage, as in this case, where a couple of individuals suddenly overshadow the hard work performed by the 125,000 men and women working for Domino’s across the nation and in 60 countries around the world.” .
3. On an interview with Domino’s Domino’s spokesman he says: “Nothing is local anymore, that’s the challenge of the Web world. Any two idiots with a video camera and a dumb idea can damage the reputation of a 50-year-old brand.”
4. The company decided not to issue a press release. Dominos spokesman was interviewed on that: “the company can deal with tens of thousands of impressions, but a strong response from Domino’s would alert more consumers to the embarrassment.”
5. The company shared an an apologetic e-mail from the employees: “It was all a prank and me nor Michael expected to have this much attention from the videos that were uploaded! No food was ever sent out to any customer. We would never put something like that on you tube if it were real!! It was fake and I wish that everyone knew that!”
April 15: Domino’s activated social media activities:
6. In a
YouTube video, Patrick Doyle, president of Domino’s USA, apologizes for the incident, and describes the steps his company is taking to ensure such an incident doesn’t happen again.
“We sincerely apologize for this incident, we thank members of the online community who quickly alerted us and allowed us to take immediate action.

Although the individuals in question claim it’s a hoax, we are taking this incredibly seriously.” Moreover, he said that the Conover srore has been shut down and is being sanitized from top to bottom and promises to make sure “that people like this don’t make it into our stores.”
6. Dominos started social media activity on twitter (under the username “dpzinfo” - it receives 1425 followers as for today).
With public information and personal twits (for example: “Most of our stores are designed so that anyone in the lobby can fully see the food prep area.”) information on the brand and on preventive acts are presented.
Examples of other corporate crises:
1-Johnson & Johnson’s response to the Tylenol incident - 1982
An unknown terrorist spiked Tylenol capsules with cyanide which resulted in seven deaths. Media coverage made it clear that Johnson & Johnson had no control over this post manufacture product tampering, suppressing any Could counterfactuals.
The actions taken by Johnson & Johnson were considered as highly effective:
The company recalled extra-strength Tylenol from all store shelves across the country, offered a reward for the murderer, and introduced a tamper resistant package. In this case, although the brand’s market share fell sharply (from 35% to 8%), it has recoverd within a year.
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5-Benzene contamination in Perrier bottled water
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