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Posted on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Patrick Doyle: How Domino's Pizza used social media to change its reputation

By Lizzy Alfs

Patrick Doyle has a lesson for business leaders: Honesty, transparency, consistency and customer engagement are the keys to running a successful company.

That’s the message the chief executive officer of Domino’s Pizza delivered at a Washtenaw Economic Club luncheon Thursday afternoon.

Doyle said a critical turning point for the Ann Arbor Township-based company was in 2009 when Domino’s told the world its old pizzas were subpar, introduced a completely new recipe, and then asked its customers for feedback via social media.


Domino's Pizza CEO Patrick Doyle, pictured in 2012 at the Ann Arbor Township headquarters.

Melanie Maxwell | file photo

“To us, social media drives everything,” Doyle said. “Consumers own the brand, we don’t own the brand.”

First, Domino’s launched a six-week, multi-million dollar marketing campaign that highlighted real customer feedback — from people saying the crust tasted like cardboard to someone calling it the worst pizza they’ve ever had.

“Great communication uses tension,” Doyle said about the brutally honest advertisements.

“We decided to accept the criticism that we had been hearing previously and play it right back to the them,” he continued. “Let me tell you, it broke through to go out and say that. People paid attention.”


Domino's recently launched its pan pizza.

Courtesy photo

Next, Domino’s engaged with its customers and asked them to post feedback on Twitter and Facebook. The company also rented an electronic billboard in New York's Times Square that highlighted that feedback, whether it was positive or negative.

In the first week the advertisement aired, Doyle said sales were up double digits. The company went from flat same-store sales and store closures in 2009, to significant sales growth in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, the company opened its 10,000 store.

The company then ran its “Show us your pizza” campaign, where it asked customers to take pictures of their Domino’s products at home and post the photos online.

“We got, I think, over 30,000 pictures posted on the Domino’s website,” Doyle said.

“Our social media part of the business just took off as people were connecting with the brand…the customers’ view of your brand is what carries the day,” he continued.

At the same time, Domino’s grew its technology side of the business and more customers than ever started ordering pizzas on mobile platforms. Today, Doyle said a third of the company’s business comes from digital orders.

Although Doyle admits it was risky, he said the transparency and customer engagement factors were key in transforming the company’s reputation.

“Fess up, own it, and if something isn’t going well, admit that you’ve got the issue, do something about it, and people will react to it,” he said.

“If it didn’t work, I might have had the shortest tenure of any CEO in the U.S.,” he joked.

Related story: Pizza redesign could have been the end of Domino's

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

I had the priviledge of meeting Patrick Doyle in October. Ann Arbor and Dominoes are very fortunate to have him here. He is very passionate about his product - every thing from wheat quality to balancing the best product with an affordable price. Social Media is crucial in his product's world and his intiatives should be duplicated in other food markets!

Kyle Mattson

Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 2:10 p.m.

I'm not entirely recalling what Doyle said, but he alluded to the fact that Dominos is one of the top ecommerce websites in the world ranking somewhere in the top-5, I believe it was for all online transactions. Maybe Lizzy happened to record that part of the presentation and can add more details. Either way, I was pretty surprised to hear that, and it really proved to me how much the web has changed who business is conducted even for the most simple businesses like pizza shops.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 12:37 a.m.

"To us, social media drives everything," Doyle said. "Consumers own the brand, we don't own the brand." Is that an actual quote from this man? If it is he is extremely short sighted and speaks in cliches.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 4:07 a.m.

So does that mean we get royalty checks? And social media only drives what is profitable. I'm sure plenty of people have asked for prices to go down even more or better tasting food and were ignored.


Fri, Feb 22, 2013 : 12:35 a.m.

Just did an inflation-regression on $5 pizzas. If they cost $5 today, the cost in 1960 dollars would be 65¢. Think about that when yer chompin down on one of those babies. And - there never was such a thing as 65¢ pizza shop pizzas in 1960, either. Believe me, the cost of a pizza date back then was closer to $5 IN 1960 dollars ($38.75 today).


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

To my way of thinking, social media might work fine for some business' but not all. Also I think you are only reaching one particular demographic and it's one that doesn't have a lot of money to spend. Just my two cents


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:22 p.m.

Saddly, this pizza still isn't what it used to be when I was young. Every Saturday night my folks would go out and my sisters and I would order double cheese and ground sausage. YUM Frankly it has very little taste these days.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:37 p.m.

We tried the "new recipe" pizzas a few months ago and it's still gross. The dough still tastes like warm cardboard. Kids with the munchies getting $5 pizzas aren't too picky I guess. Same reason Taco Bell is popular (cheap).

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:17 p.m.

Hi All- We've added a poll to Lizzy's recap. To those of you who have responded "Yes" to the poll, what was the outcome of your complaint? In Doyle's speech today he mentioned that Domino's has transitioned their customer service team to include social media efforts and treat any feedback no different than an email or phone call to their HQ and try to respond to each one within 30 minutes. Personally, I've contacted brand to give both positive and negative feedback and I always find it interesting to see if/when they respond.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

Generally I've gotten one of two kinds of responses: 1) basically nothing, followed by the company more or less tanking in the following year or two, or 2) Fast and aggressive responses with very satisfactory outcomes.


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:03 p.m.

David Brandon left Domino's on Jan 5, 2010. Coincidence?


Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

The decision was made by Brandon, Doyle and others. The timing was complete coincidence.

Kyle Mattson

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 9:22 p.m.

Doyle actually addressed the timing of the change of command today. He said that the rebrand started within weeks of his appointment, and that looking back on it had the change not been successful he would have had the shortest time on the job as a CEO in history.

Janet Hawkins

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 8:55 p.m.

Washtenaw Community College is proud to welcome the Washtenaw Economic Club back to campus for another year of inspiring presentations.

Martha Cojelona Gratis

Thu, Feb 21, 2013 : 8:42 p.m.

I wish alot more companies would adopt this model