On several occasions over the last year, we in the Bunker have commented upon the ongoing Domino’s Pizza advertising campaign with regard to its foundation in market research. First, we offered praise to Domino’s for their willingness to act upon unflattering market research findings. Then, we became a little concerned when their spots strained credibility by featuring focus groups in the middle of a farm field. And now, with this latest commercial in the series, we find ourselves shaking our heads at the way Domino’s has used some of the outward trappings of research to create a silly, gimmicky promotion. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the offending commercial:
There are a number things we dislike about that spot. First and foremost, Tate looks so much like the Michael Bolton character from the film Office Space, that it’s distracting. But that aside, it’s the alleged market research angle of this commercial that we really have a problem with. In fact, there are three specific aspects that rankle us:
- The survey instrument is a greasy piece of cardboard. This commercial makes it appear that people are supposed to check the appropriate item on the pizza box top and send it in. Really? Didn’t asking consumers to mail in box tops stop being a legitimate marketing approach around the time Ralphie from A Christmas Story sent in for his Ovaltine Decoder ring? And could there be a more awkward type of box top to deal with than the heavy cardboard from a used, probably food-stained box? Why not just ask people to chisel their opinions on a stone tablet and send that in? That would be only slightly less clumsy and inefficient.
- The rating scale is stupid. Consumers are given these three choices to answer the question of whether Tate’s Chicken got it right: “Nope,” “Almost,” and “Oh yes we did.” I don’t know about the chicken, but Domino’s got the scale very, very wrong. First of all, it’s debatable whether “almost” truly is the semantic midpoint between “yes” and “no.” But even if we overlook that quibble, the real problem here is the use of the “Oh yes we did.” That’s not research, that’s a copywriter trying to be cute…and failing. We’re not fans of goofball rating labels, especially not when they’re only used on one end of the scale. If positive feedback warrants a colorful interjection, shouldn’t the negative response get something along the same lines rather than a simple “nope?”
- If Domino’s really wanted legitimate feedback about their chicken, they wouldn’t personalize the issue. From a research standpoint, the commercial itself seems designed to bias the responses. It puts a human face to the product and presents sort of a contrived Reality TV scenario where presumably that human’s job (or at least his standing amid his Domino’s peers) is on the line if America hates his product. They’ve made it more about Tate than about the chicken. From a pure marketing standpoint, that might or might not be a smart approach, but it’s bad research.
Now, all that said, we realize that it probably seems silly for us to critique what is clearly a promotional gimmick based on its merits as authentic research, but that’s really our main point of contention. Domino’s is blurring the line between gimmickry and research. We’re sure they understand the difference, but many people watching the commercials won’t, and we think don’t think that’s good for our industry. In any case, their misuse and misrepresentation of market research are enough to make us miss the “The Noid.” Well, okay, not really, but you get the idea.
This is awesome! Absolutely, “research as gimmick” can make market research appear simple (and at times nonsensical — are garbage men taking the tallies from those greasy pizza tops with poorly worded questions!?) BUT at the same time, it’s cool to see market research being featured at all on TV, right? Like when last season of Mad Men added Faye to the roster and women in market research looked smart, sexy, and imperative to a successful campaign. I love seeing market research on TV, even when it’s hokey and not really representative.
Thanks for the feedback, Elizabeth. Here in our office we were wondering if some people out there might be actually filling out those box top surveys and then throwing them away with the assumption that their garbage collectors might actually be tallying the results and sending them to Domino’s. As crazy as that sounds, I could see it happening.
I too would enjoy seeing more market research portrayed on television, if only because it would take me a lot less time to explain to people what I do for a living. (Just imagine how much easier it got for real life crime scene investigators to have work-related conversations with strangers at cocktail parties after “CSI” came out and became a hit.) It would be nice to be able to point to a popular show or character on TV and say, “That’s what I do.”