The Power of Saying ...


dominos pizza ad business storytellingThis headline in BusinessWeek was so good, I decided to borrow it.

Writer Patrick Lencioni, head of management consultancy The Table Group, chronicles the Domino’s Pizza ad campaign that takes introspective to a new level.

In short, Domino’s falls on its rolling pin, publicly sharing focus group opinions that call out the pizza maker for “a crust that tastes like cardboard and a sauce that’s like ketchup.”


We haven’t seen this type of contrarian story in advertising since Bartles & James leaned on two geezers to hustle wine coolers to the youth of America.

The video below delivers an extended version of the Domino’s TV ad.

Domino’s and its ad agency Crispen Porter + Bogusky deserve credit for classic storytelling.

Yes, the self flagellation plays in Peoria.

Sure, authenticity comes from showing real people as the characters behind the scenes, not actors.

But the reason the story elevates the pizza to heroic heights is Domino’s willingness to expose the very same pizza at its all-time low.

We see a defenseless, albeit, tasteless, pizza pummeled by the likes of “Alice from Bakersfield” and “Timmy from Tallahassee.”

Instead of getting defensive – hey, we get the dang pizza from order to your doorstep in 30 minutes and you want taste too? – Dominos does two things that endear any business to its customers.

It listened.

It took corrective actions.

But the ingredients for drama don’t come together if Domino’s isn’t willing to show its vulnerability, a trait that gets a bad wrap in business as pointed out by Lencioni:

Vulnerability is often seen as a weakness; Its actually a sign of strength. People who are genuinely open and transparent prove that they have the confidence and self esteem to allow others to see them as they really are, warts and all. There’s something undeniably magnetic about people who can do that “

The lesson from Domino’s isn’t for companies to re-cut deadly focus group videos for public consumption. (What’s the opposite of viral?)

The lesson lies in the power of the mea culpa and how it creates a springboard to telling a story with a happy ending.

It goes back to the Kurt Vonnegut storytelling tip No. 6:

Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

Awful things did indeed happen to this pizza.


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