These days, if you forget to include napkins in a customer's to-go bag, or your coffee isn't served hot enough or there's an overflowing trash can in the restroom, your fans will let you know about it. Courtesy of social media, they'll even do it publicly and in real time.
The risk is compounded if you build up something big and fall short of expectations. Domino's Australia learned that lesson the hard way this month when it launched a marketing teaser about the "biggest launch in its 20-year history."
For the campaign, the Australian system's CEO Don Meij appeared in a video telling customers that Domino's has responded to their demand for change by coming up with a "real game changer."
The company even shut down locations around the country to prep operationally. But when the announcement was finally made on Monday, we could practically hear a giant thud here in the States; the build-up had fallen flat, hard.
Domino's Australia had introduced a new range of pizzas with premium toppings. But a new range, according to a huge swath of fans, is certainly no "game changer." And so the masses took their virtual pitchforks and swarmed social media to air their grievances:
"You spammed us for over a week for this?? Fire your marketing team."
"Fantastic Game Changer. NOTTT."
"Get out of your boardroom and pay attention to your customers."
"Guess you guys at Domino's need to look up the definition of Game Changer."
"So the big announcement was for higher prices. Nice one"
And so as many of Domino's Australia's fellow restaurant companies have done before, the company spun into crisis mode. Meij jumped on the brand's Facebook page to answer as many questions as he could in an hour's time.
But more than 1,500 comments were posted in that hour and Meij got to about 30 of them. Because of the real-time nature of social media posting, many of Meij's comments quickly became entangled in other nontopical conversations, and Meij was answering more questions about other products and basic customer service rather than the company's new "Chef's Best" lineup.
Meij also responded to criticism about not responding enough: "Michael as you can see, there are a ton of questions coming in. I am definitely trying to get to as many as possible. Bare with me," he wrote in one post. He wasted one of his 30 posts on explaining why there weren't more posts from him, in other words. In the process, he asked for patience from a clearly disappointed fan base.
On a positive note for Domino's, because social media moves so fast, this storm will blow over sooner than later. The company will retain most of its fans and will surely even gain new ones.
And a hard lesson was likely learned that building up an announcement of any magnitude — game changer or not — will now be scrutinized in real time for all to see. As one commenter so succinctly wrote: "Old communication strategies in new media don't work. Now you get the direct feedback, versus the old days of patting each other on the back in the boardroom and heading out to celebrate. Launch modestly."
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.