Domino’s Smooths the Customer Journey by Paving Roads

Hal Conick
Key Takeaways

What? Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Domino’s advertising agency of record, suggested that the pizza chain embark on an infrastructure-based advertising campaign. 

So what? “The first time I heard the idea, it was obvious to me that it really was a breakthrough, unique idea that would resonate and demonstrate our obsession and passion with pizza,” says Kate Trumbull, vice president of advertising at Domino’s Pizza. 

Now what? The campaign received 1.1 billion traditional media impressions from its launch in June 2018 through November. 

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​Goal 

People hate potholes. Drivers dislike being surprised by mid-road jolts and hate fixing the all-too-common damage to their vehicles—the American Automobile Association reports that potholes cost U.S. drivers an annual average of $3 billion in repairs. And just think of how all those bumps in the road could ruin mid-transit pizzas! 

OK, drivers don’t likely think much about how potholes might ruin their pizzas, but the advertising team at Domino’s Pizza has. Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Domino’s advertising agency of record, suggested that the pizza chain ask customers what roads in their area needed repairs. CP+B pitched that Domino’s would give a grant to the municipality in charge of maintaining that road, then use the repairs as the backbone of an infrastructure-based advertising campaign. 

“The first time I heard the idea, it was obvious to me that it really was a breakthrough, unique idea that would resonate and demonstrate our obsession and passion with pizza,” says Kate Trumbull, vice president of advertising at Domino’s Pizza. 

Trumbull says that the Domino’s ad team saw pothole repair as an opportunity to ease their customers’ journey—after all, why should a bad road get in the way of good pizza? It also fit with the company’s previous campaign: Domino’s had given customers “carryout insurance” on their pizzas. Domino’s replaced ruined pizzas—whether damaged by potholes, a ravenous dog or a slip-and-fall accident—so long as the customer returned the cheesy remains. 

Trumbull says that the idea of taking customer requests for road repairs was revolutionary, but she had no idea how they’d pull it off. Who would they work with? Were local municipalities even interested in taking money for potholes, money that historically comes from public funds? She had no clue.

Action

Before launching the campaign, Domino’s and CP+B cold-called municipalities to see if they’d be interested in road-repair grants. The duo became familiar with the winding-but-staid nature of working with local government; sometimes, they’d find the right person on the first call, other times it took multiple callbacks, pass-forwards and long games of phone tag. “It can test you and test your patience,” Trumbull says. “But getting those early confirmations that this could work really motivated the team to keep pushing.”

Trumbull realized that many local governments were as excited by the idea as she was. Cities with small budgets seemed especially thrilled: “They really wanted to work with us and make it happen,” she says. Some governments had no interest, but Trumbull heard enough positive responses that she became more excited by the idea. The campaign would help the company sell more pizzas and drive brand buzz, she believed, but it would also be uniquely engaging. 

“We want consumers to know no other brand loves pizza more than we do,” Trumbull says. 

In late 2017, Domino’s began work on its Paving for Pizza campaign. Domino’s awarded grants to four cities that it had cold-called. On Dec. 12, 2017, road crews paved eight potholes across three roads in Bartonville, Texas, the first city to be awarded a paving grant. The crew used a road roller branded with a Domino’s sticker—a video filmed by Domino’s shows the roller moving backwards to reveal a branded stencil with the company’s logo and the tagline, “Oh yes we did.” Then, in March, Domino’s awarded a grant to Milford, Delaware, where crews repaired 10 roads. In April, crews in Athens, Georgia, repaved 150 square yards of failing roadway.

On June 11, 2018, Domino’s sent out a press release and launched a microsite where customers could submit requests for roads in their area that needed repairs. The website also served as a place to show off successfully paved roads, as well as statistics and reactions. Stephen Bailey, the program development coordinator of Athens, is quoted on the Paving for Pizza microsite as saying that this grant was “certainly a new type of opportunity for us.”

Within the first week, customers sent in 47,197 nominations for repairs. 

Then, social media exploded with chatter and Trumbull’s phone glowed and buzzed. “My mom called me, my aunts and uncles were texting me,” she says. “People are just like, wow, Domino’s is seriously doing this?”

Although Domino’s ad team was excited, they kept their media budget steady throughout the campaign. They’d reach out to franchisees to let them know that they had given a paving grant in their area, Trumbull says, and franchisees would often send their own press releases or bring pizzas to the road crews. But after the initial press releases and ads, the campaign spread most successfully by word of mouth.  

“People bring it up with me,” Trumbull says. “‘Are you guys really paving?’ And when you hear that, something has really struck a chord.”

Result

In Andrew Essex’s 2017 book, The End of Advertising​, he touted an infrastructure advertising approach as the future of ads. Essex, who currently serves as CEO of marketing company Plan A, had simple reasons: Print ads haven’t worked in 20 years, TV viewers see commercials as more annoying than informative and internet users can wield adblockers to rid their screens of pop-ups and sidebar ads. His main point: Companies need to get creative and push beyond all-too-familiar ads or risk becoming irrelevant. It’s no surprise, then, that Essex had nice things to say about Domino’s campaign: “Absolutely brilliant,” he says. “Anytime that you can find whitespace or surface that isn’t mediated into a communication channel, you’ve done something brilliant.”

Brilliant campaigns get brilliant results: Jenny Fouracre-Petko, Domino’s director of public relations and charitable giving, says that the campaign received 1.1 billion traditional media impressions from its launch in June 2018 through November. 

Trumbull says that during that same period, the microsite drew 170,000 nominations for road repairs from 16,000 unique zip codes. The microsite itself received 500,000 hits during that time. Trumbull says that the company doesn’t share sales data, but simply called the results “strong and successful.”

Domino’s has continued to give grants for road repairs. As of November 2018, Trumbull says that they’ve given grants to pave 11 towns, with 20 more local governments reviewing grant agreements. Domino’s even decided to give grants to municipalities in all 50 states; Trumbull hopes to see the last roads paved by Spring 2019, at latest.  

Outside of success metrics, Trumbull says that the excitement generated by the campaign was unique. She had no idea people would get so passionate about a paving campaign; franchisees started matching Domino’s donations to pave roads and Trumbull even received pictures of people dressed as a Domino’s road crew for Halloween. 

“It’s exceeded expectations,” she says.

While the Paving for Pizza campaign finished at the end of 2018—save for some straggler roads still to be paved—Trumbull hopes that Domino’s can create more campaigns that address friction points in the customer journey.

“For us, this wasn’t about infrastructure; this is really about pizza,” she says.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Hal Conick
Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at hconick@ama.org or on Twitter at @HalConick.

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