retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Advertising Age has a largely laudatory story about how Domino’s handled the crisis it faced last week when two employees in one of its North Carolina stores uploaded video to YouTube.com that showed one of them sticking cheese up his nose and then putting it on a sandwich sold to a customer (though the employees denied that they’d actually sold the sandwich after they were fired and charged with committing a felony). According to the story, Domino’s “will be given credit for an effective, if somewhat sluggish, response. And the resulting public-relations crisis can be a valuable learning experience for marketers of every stripe.”

Ad Age suggests that Domino’s biggest mistake was to believe that it would be able to contain the story and therefore prevent more people from knowing about it…but that the 24 hour delay between the time it found out about it and the time it got aggressive allowed close a million people to watch it online.

Once Domino’s got moving, it produced a video featuring Patrick Doyle, president of Domino's USA, in which he said, “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."

Ad Age writes that Doyle said in the video “that the store where the videos were shot has been shut down and sanitized. The company, he says, is also conducting a wholesale review of hiring practices ‘to make sure that people like this don't make it into our stores’.”

It made matters worse, the paper writes, when it became known that one of the perpetrators was a registered sex offender.

Ad Age reports, “Richard Levick, president of PR firm Levick Strategic Communications, said he'd give Domino's an F for the first 24 hours and an A or an A+ for everything thereafter. ‘After the first 24 hours, they were largely textbook,’ he said. ‘They started a Twitter account, separated themselves from the villains, shut down the store, apologized, went to their demographic, went to YouTube -- I think all of that is great. People can take their stabs if they want, on every nuance of what Domino's has done, but after the first 24 hours, it's largely textbook’.”

KC's View:
Maybe…but somehow it is hard to imagine ordering a Domino’s pizza without thinking of this story. And more importantly, as noted in this space last week, it seems to have opened a conversation among consumers about who and what we really can trust…which is a troubling discussion if you work in an industry dependent on shopper trust.

BTW…MNB user Vic Hansen had a good line about this in an email he sent me yesterday: “My main take out would be that you don’t just have to do the right thing. In an online world, you have to do it yesterday.”

Exactly.