Dominos Learns an Important Lesson from Viral Crisis

How companies deal with a crisis can make or break their business.  The emergence of social media has made this even more vital.  The pizza chain Dominos has certainly had a week from hell after an idiotic attempt at humor by a pair of employees in Conover, North Carolina, who filmed themselves performing disgusting things to the pizzas they were about to deliver, spread like wildfire over the internet.

According to a story in the New York Times, company spokesman Tim McIntyre admitted that company executives initially did not want to aggressively address the issue, hoping it would die down:

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.

How a company in today’s viral world can think that something like this could go away is like jumping into a tank of sharks and with an open cut.  There is no avoiding the issue. Once it starts spreading virally, such a video takes on a life of its own.

To complicate matters, Dominos began only dealing with selected bloggers that contacted the company instead of orchestrating a full blown response to the emerging crisis. 

Leading blogger  Joseph Jaffe  took a position on this that I totally agree with during an interview with ABCNews.com:

One of my quotes states that Domino’s should have blasted a press release instead of targeted blogs.

Tim McIntyre, Domino’s spokesperson expressly chose following up with bloggers who had “expressed interest” compared to a press release route which he “feared would only encourage more people to find and view the video” (logic/rationale sounds a bit backward to me). My point of view was to be proactive ahead of the inevitable mainstream media pickup i.e. pretending it doesn’t exist or hoping it goes away was both risky and unrealistic. Domino’s should have taken preemptive action in terms of either telling their side of the story and/or being ready/prepared/available to tell their story to the major daily shows, news outlets etc.

Secondly, Domino’s took a position to respond directly to blogs/bloggers that contacted them…but I believe they should have taken this further and – with a listening strategy in place – reached out to any blogs (including mine) that referenced the fiasco.

Marketers need to understand that when a blogger hits the publish button, they are essentially “contacting” the brand for a response, albeit indirectly.

(Jaffe Juice)

As the week moved on Dominos definitely has taken some good steps in addressing the crisis situation such as firing the individuals involved, pressing civil charges against them and posting a response from its CEO on You Tube, as well as creating a Twitter account @dpzinfo.

However, if they had gone into full crisis mode the minute they learned of the video being posted, including issuing a nationally distributed press release, holding a press conference and conducting a proactive campaign to social media outlets, they would have been better served.  Giving away a free delivery of pizza or incorporating another such promotion could also help to diminish the negative impact.

Scenarios that just affected Dominos will continue to occur.  As social media continues to grow and more outlets and platforms are created for distributing content, brands and companies can no longer be reactive. They need to be in full 24-hour monitoring mode. Their brands and reputations will rise and fall on how closely they are monitoring what’s being said about them.

Tom Cosentino

 

 

 

 

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