In 2010, Domino’s Pizza was known as the poor man’s Pizza Hut. 

Not a patch on Papa John’s, and unable to satisfy the growing consumer desire for a ‘posher’ slice found in the likes of Pizza Express.

Today, Domino’s is the second-largest pizza chain in the world, reporting total revenue of $624.2m in early 2017. With an improved supply chain and a strong digital presence, its turnaround is likely due to a number of factors.

However, a delightfully offbeat marketing strategy is certainly one of the biggest. With this is mind, here’s a run-down of some of the best (and daftest) examples.

(And remember that Econsultancy subscribers can download our Digital Marketing Template Files for guidance on campaign planning)

1. Pizza turnaround

Let’s begin with the ad campaign that kicked off a change in brand perception.

On the back of negative customer reviews bemoaning the brand’s cardboard-like crust and ketchup-tasting sauce, Domino’s decided to come clean with an honest and self-deprecating series of ads to announce a new and improved recipe.

Admitting mistakes is a risky move for any business, but with sales and consumer favour at rock-bottom, Domino’s didn’t have much to lose. Luckily, its transparency paid off.

It even went so far as to expose common photography tricks it had previously used to make its pizzas look bigger, successfully reinventing itself as a surprisingly honest brand.

2. The wedding registry

Forget silverware. What better way to celebrate the start of a marriage than with a chicken feast or a tandoori sizzler? This is the basis of a rather ingenious campaign by Domino’s, which allows soon-to-be-married couples to create their own pizza wedding registry.

It might sound like a stunt, but it’s actually a shrewd example of Domino’s ecommerce strategy. With more than half of its sales generated through digital channels, it’s yet another way for the brand to ramp up both engagement and sales online.

3. The power of emojis

One reason Domino’s has become such a popular brand (particularly with a younger demographic) is its ability to tap into current social trends.

So, recognising that emoji had become a language of its own, it decided to provide digitally-savvy consumers with the height of convenience – a service that allows you to order merely by tweeting the pizza emoji.

Is it a gimmick or a truly valuable customer tool? That’s debatable, but it has certainly generated a fair amount of brand awareness, and perhaps furthered its reputation as a youth-focused brand.

4. The autonomous pizza robot

Domino’s already promises both fast delivery and innovative technology. Its Pizza Tracker tool allows customers to track their order every step of the way. However, the brand has strived to differentiate itself from its competitors with even more investment in this space – one of the most notable examples being its autonomous pizza bot.

In partnership with Starship Technologies, it built a number of robots that could deliver pizzas within a one-mile radius in select German and Dutch cities. It also launched a similar initiative in Australia, where DRU (Domino’s Robotic Unit) navigated his way to customer’s homes via on-board cameras and sensors.

Unfortunately, there’s been no word as to whether Domino’s will unleash the technology on the mean streets of UK towns and cities.

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5. Reindeer delivery

It’s not only bots that have been delivering Domino’s Pizza. In one of the brand’s biggest and silliest PR stunts to date, last year it announced that it would be employing reindeer to deliver pizza in Japan.

Naturally, with the reindeer’s proving less than co-operative, the plan was rapidly abandoned. That’s after the brand achieved a fair amount of exposure, of course, which rather conveniently coincided with a time when most of us are more concerned with mince pies than pepperoni.

6. Pizza Legends

Domino’s added personalisation into the mix for its 2015 Pizza Legends campaign, launching a micro-site to allow consumers to create their own unique pizza.

Customers could choose the name and occasion, as well as make it extra special by choosing from a variety of toppings like ‘stardust’ and ‘peace’.

There was a competition element too, with the chance to be featured in the ‘League of Pizza Legends’ creating an incentive for people to get involved and share their creations on social. With consumers still entering their own Pizza Legend, it has become one of the brand’s biggest campaigns in terms of engagement.

7. Dom the pizza bot

From Sephora to Channel 4, a whole host of brands have integrated chatbots into their marketing strategy. Many have failed to live up to the hype, mainly due to the technology being far too limited to provide users with much more than a basic decision-tree.

That being said, Dom the Pizza Bot was one of my favourites of last year, and not because it was sophisticated, but because it was one of the most on-brand examples.

With an irreverent and cheeky tone of voice, the bot sends out humorous replies, cleverly anticipating that many users are likely to try and undermine or be cheeky in return.

So, while Dom is unlikely to provide much value in the long-term, it is still decent enough to provide a bit of entertainment for loyal Domino’s customers – perhaps acting as a sign of further innovation in social ordering.

8. Lost for words

Last year, Domino’s once again tapped into digital trends, this time celebrating our fascination with Snapchat face-swapping.

Starting with social research to determine the emotions people feel when eating pizza, the resulting GIFs, snaps and emojis were then incorporated into an ad campaign, demonstrating how Domino’s leaves us ‘lost for words’.

One of the brand’s most social campaigns to date, it also included bespoke Snapchat Lenses and a dedicated Giphy channel to let us all express how we feel about stuffed crust.

9. Masterpizzas

Alongside integrating social elements into large-scale campaigns, Domino’s also uses social platforms to promote new menu-items or exclusive ranges.

To coincide with the launch of its new Italiano range in the UK, it specifically turned to Facebook to give users the chance to win a year’s supply of pizza.

Dubbed ‘Master Pizzas’, it held a Facebook Live auction whereby users could bid using emojis. Domino’s also auctioned off some of the work Renaissance-style artist China Jordan had painted especially for a number of its UK stores.

With over 71,000 comments, the auction successfully created a splash, ramping up engagement and reach on the platform.

10. Tummy Translator

Finally, in one of the brand’s most off-the-wall marketing stunts, Domino’s launched ‘Tummy Translator’ – an app designed to offer food recommendations based on stomach rumbles.

It involved users positioning their mobile phone next to their tummies to allow the ‘gastro-acoustic-enterology’ to translate rumblings into pizza cravings. The app would then recommend a specific pizza, and provide users with unique offers and deals.

Sure, it was an overtly elaborate way of promoting the brand’s extensive range of pizzas, but it’s also a nice example of how Domino’s – in its own words – provides ‘little moments of joy’ to its customers every step of the way.

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