Brandon Solano is the innovator behind Domino’s Pizza Turnaround, a sleek (and effective?) campaign cashing in on accountability while banks and brokers blindly seek out scapegoats. Brandon let A&P in on a few secrets about their new marketing recipe.

Alister & Paine: Tell me about Domino’s new marketing campaign.

Brandon Solano: We were sitting in Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s offices and started kicking around this idea. We said we should come clean and be honest. Our pizza wasn’t great. It was hot, it was fast, and it was a good value, but if you wanted some really great food, we weren’t the place you thought of first.

A lot of the press has kicked us in the butt and asked “How could you say your product isn’t good?” It’s one of the things companies don’t want to talk about. It’s the elephant in the room. There were a number of people who said it’s because the franchise didn’t make it right, or it was somebody else’s fault.

So we tested it. I had it made portion properly to our exact specifications by our head chefs, and it wasn’t good enough! It stopped becoming a matter of opinion and started becoming a fact that our pizza was not where we wanted it to be. We set out to fix it.

I wanted people to be passionate about our food. Consumer testing can get you into trouble, because you can get to a place where a popularity contests emerges. ‘Let’s find the one that doesn’t offend anybody’.

We wanted to find the one that was people’s favorite. We developed a recipe that had a point of view. Instead of taking a poll like a politician, we were going to create an identity and people would want to come follow it.

The people that liked it, loved it.

Alister & Paine: What about the interactive campaign, the Pizza Turnaround?

Brandon Solano: People were saying that stuff about our pizza anyway. It’s not like we could keep it a secret, that our pizza wasn’t good enough.

We had to make the decision as to whether we would censor the negative comments on the site.  At least half of them were not positive. We’re okay with that. They’re going to write it somewhere.

We might as well provide that forum. The people negatively commenting were the people who hadn’t tried it yet. ‘Oh the new pizza sucks’. ‘Have you tried it?’ ‘No, but I’m pretty sure it sucks’. So we got to challenge them a little.

The people that didn’t like it in terms of the campaign were some of the marketing talking heads, the professionals. We had this woman on CNBC saying this is the new Coke, these guys are idiots. She said it’s about the brand, and taste isn’t everything. I just thought, oh, she’s hopeless!

Alister & Paine: What steps did you take to transform the brand overnight?

Brandon Solano: Food in this country has become bland. People are becoming more sophisticated and demanding better taste. You can do one of two things: you can hold on to your recipe and watch your business fade away.

Or, you can transform your brand and deliver on what your customer expectations are. It’s not 1985. People have changed. And there are a lot of options out there.

The brand’s not changed overnight. We still have a lot of work to do. But it started with the recipe and coming up with the right product. We weren’t prepared for the response. It hit like a truck. As soon as we went on air, boom! The next day, things were different.

We did some research to make sure we weren’t crazy. If we say bad things about our product are people gonna think we’re nuts? We have really smart management. They’re bold. Who messes with their core recipe, their core product? People don’t do that.

A lot of times you’ll show off your new product and everyone says ‘Oh tell me it’s great’. That’s not what I want to hear. I want to know what you think. If it’s not great, you better tell me.

This is a culture where we can take feedback. If it’s not good enough, that really bums me out. But you know what? It’s going to inspire me. Let me go back and fix it. We want to be great.