Dominos increases ad effectiveness with two-sided messages.
One of America’s favorite foods – pizza and its various derivatives – is in danger of becoming a commodity like salt, sugar, or airline travel.
The airwaves are so saturated with commercials from large pizza chains like Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Domino’s, consumers see few differences among them. The impression many consumers have is that they all pretty much taste the same — filling perhaps, but otherwise unremarkable. The result is greater price sensitivity and frequent brand switching based on who has the week’s better deals.
Finding effective ways to differentiate one’s pizza brand has become a special challenge. While introducing its new, improved recipe, Domino’s came up with a unique marketing concept: tell the truth about its products. Brand managers and advertising execs were stunned when their new ad campaign compared their old product to “cardboard.” Another customer called it “mass produced, boring, bland.” Another said that microwave pizza is far superior.”
As reported by Sean Gregory in Time (May, 2011), Domino’s New Recipe: (Brutal) Truth in Advertising, that Domino’s was delivering a simple message: We admit we screwed up. We’re trying to improve. Give our pizza another chance.
The initial campaign and follow-up spots accomplished two important objectives: 1) It quickly differentiated Domino’s from those other cardboard products, and 2) It enhanced the credibility of its advertising message. A simple “new, improved” ad campaign would have caused most minds and palates to reject the ads as more of the same. But by admitting that there were issues they were correcting, viewers found the ads more believable.
Domino’s was using what is referred to as a “two-sided message.” In most instances it means communicating something the consumer will perceive as negative along with the positive. Consumer research indicates that two-sided messages significantly increase advertising effectiveness if several criteria are met.
First, the negative information must be presented voluntarily. In other words, being required to disclose something negative such as the official health warnings for cigarettes or alcohol do nothing to enhance credibility or effectiveness.
Second, two-sided messages are most effective when the audience members are not under excessive “cognitive load.” That simply means that the context must not be so mentally arduous or complex that the viewer or reader is unable to perceive or comprehend the message fully.
Third, the positive message must present a unique and meaningful (to the audience) benefit.
A recent study on two-side messages can be found in a study conducted by Martin Eisend, European University Viadrina, Germany, “Explaining the Joint Effect of Source Credibility and Negativity of Information in Two-Sided Messages,” published in Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 27(11): 1032–1049 (November 2010).
As I mentioned, Domino’s has continued its two-sided message advertising in several of its current campaigns. Below is a commercial for their “cheesy bread” product. Although this is an older version of the advertising, a recent spot uses almost the identical language. Note especially when one actor comments, “We were one of the worst offenders,” referring to the lack of cheese on or in most cheesy bread offerings.
In the interest of full disclosure, when I order pizza it is not from Pizza Hut, Domino’s, or Papa John’s. My favorite is a local spot called Leonardo’s on Forest Avenue, in Portland, Maine. Aptly named, each pie is truly a work of art. Yum!