Domino’s Risks All with Recipe Change

Domino’s Pizza, the world’s largest pizza delivery chain, is not content to sit back and let its size and market penetration support the standing of its brand. Starting this week, Domino’s is taking the enormous step of changing its core pizza recipe. Domino’s says the new recipe, which features a garlic seasoned crust, new sauce and new cheese, is more flavorful than the recipe it has based its brand upon since opening as a single pizza shop in Michigan in 1960.

Domino’s proudly says it is “reinventing” its pizza from the crust up to reflect changing consumer tastes. The chain is taking this bold step following an overall decline in pizza delivery sales and its coming in last, tied with kids’ pizza chain Chuck E. Cheese, in a 2009 consumer preference survey.

Folks, this is huge news in the world of branding. Arguably this is the most earth-shattering brand reinvention by a major global company since Coca-Cola launched its “New Coke” formula in 1985. Mass consumer rejection caused Coca-Cola to revert to its original recipe in a relatively short period of time, and New Coke is generally considered one of the worst mistakes in marketing history.

Time will tell if Domino’s surprisingly aggressive move will soar or fall flat. But keep in mind that rival pizza chain Papa John’s has been making inroads against industry leaders Domino’s and Pizza Hut by simply offering a well-crafted branding message about the top quality of its ingredients.

Clearly, Domino’s had to do something in the face of slumping sales and poor customer satisfaction results. But if your personal brand is facing similar hurdles, or your “dough” is no longer making dough, think carefully before enacting a similar wholesale change to the core components of your brand.

Talk to current and prospective customers and clients and be willing to hear honest feedback, even if it’s stuff you don’t want to hear. Ask your Branding Board of Advisers to review your marketing materials, personal pitch, general performance and presentation, and listen to their suggestions for improvement.

I’m not saying that Domino’s is necessarily wrong or that at certain times total brand reinvention may not be the way to jump-start a flagging business. I am saying that this type of wholesale brand change must not be entered into lightly or quickly. It is entirely possible that a few tweaks to how you promote your product or service or simply working harder will produce the improvements you are looking for.

Coca-Cola was big enough to weather the storm created by New Coke, and if Domino’s recipe change fails it may also possess the size and built-in customer base to carry on. Your personal brand, however, probably cannot survive a total reinvention if it goes wrong.

How much of your brand are you willing to change or enhance to increase your compensation? Let us know!