Domino’s: It’s not as simple as ‘we’re digital so let’s spend all our money on digital’

Despite the fact digital makes up 80% of its sales, high-profile TV sponsorships remain at the heart of Domino’s marketing strategy as the pizza delivery giant looks to position itself as the ‘Official Food of Everything’.

A strategy of targeted sponsorships, above-the-line advertising and digital investment is helping Domino’s stay ahead of the pack in the pizza delivery market.

A seamless delivery experience is core to the business’s success so it has been investing heavily in improving the service, installing GPS in half of its stores and creating an online tracker that maps the driver’s route, crucial developments given that four-fifths of Domino’s sales come through digital channels.

Yet despite being a heavily digital business, sales and marketing director Tony Holdway firmly believes the company does not need to divert all its spend online.

“We’ve got all the stats from econometrics that say offline advertising drives online advertising and vice-versa,” says Holdway.

“It’s not as pure as ‘we’re digital so let’s spend all our money on digital’. Clearly that’s where a lot of our customers are so it makes sense to move money into appropriate digital channels, but you don’t have to mirror the split of your business.”

Sponsorship is at the cornerstone of Domino’s marketing strategy, which is built around the key occasions when consumers might want to order a piza. Holdway argues that rather than focusing on big events like Fathers’ Day, it is far more exciting to tap into the little truisms in customers’ lives that put them in the mood for pizza, and then expand on those over time.

Domino’s AI chatbot known as Dom.

“The key passion points for customers are things like sport – football in particular – and the big events when the family sit down. Then you say, how could we associate ourselves better with football? And that’s how we ended up with the Sky Sports News sponsorship,” Holdway explains.

Domino’s also sponsors ITV Hub and Channel 4 series Hollyoaks.

“With the ITV Hub, clearly if you are going to watch something on catch up you really want to watch it. You’re hunting it down and it becomes a proper TV moment so that could be a moment to order a pizza. Then Hollyoaks’ audience is a strong demographic for us and it’s that perfect timing [6.30pm on weeknights]. Even if you don’t order pizza that night, it’s reminding you that we’re there.”

Working with its creative agency VCCP, Domino’s tailors the idents to Hollyoaks’ storylines, so that the advertising becomes better integrated with the entertainment, rather than just “label slapping the brand” ahead of each show.

Elsewhere, Domino’s launched its ‘The Official Food of…’ positioning in September last year, which it hopes will provide the flexibility it needs to play into different food occasions in a tongue-in-cheek manner that suits the brand’s tone of voice.

This is true of Domino’s World Cup 2018 social campaign, which sees it join forces with former footballer and Soccer AM host Jimmy Bullard to position the pizza brand as ‘The Official Food of not Going to International Football Tournaments’.

Despite being called up to the England squad, Bullard never actually broke through into the first team for an international match, the reason why Domino’s decided he would be the perfect fit.

Running across YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the campaign is also being promoted through a tie-up with sports community platform SportBible.

Retail pedigree

Holdway’s considerable retail experience has informed the way he’s approached his role at Domino’s since joining the business in September 2016.

His marketing career kicked off with a 16-year stint at WH Smith as brand communications controller, before joining Mothercare as head of marketing and business development, and then becoming Woolworths’ marketing customer services director.

Roles then followed as brand director at Littlewoods and Wickes, before Holdway was appointed brand marketing director at House of Fraser. He served for eight months as CMO of Bhs prior to joining the pizza delivery business almost two years ago.

Despite now holding a dual sales and marketing position, Holdway draws no distinction between the two sides of his role, arguing that every marketing director is expected to drive sales for their brand whether that’s in the short or long term.

READ MORE: Why there is ‘no excuse for misalignment’ between marketing and sales

He is, however, applying his 30 years’ experience in multichannel retail to the Domino’s brand.

“We are still a retail business of a fashion: we have stores, we have digital, we do delivery. Probably the only difference to other retailers is our customer journey is more in the moment,” Holdway tells Marketing Week at Cannes Lions.

“The journey is shorter and quicker and more immediate, but that journey and experience is still vital especially when your business is 80% online. It’s not like it’s just 5% of your business. You get it wrong and [it impacts] four-fifths of our business and growing.”

Domino’s is pushing to make even better use of its data in order to personalise its communications, as well as analyse and predict consumer behaviour. The company also has a real interest in exploring the part voice and chat will play in making the ordering experience easier and speedier in the future.

While voice is not a dominant channel for the business yet, Holdway fully expects it to be a normal channel for consumers to communicate with brands within the next three to five years.

“It’s not a plaything, it’s going to be real,” he adds. “We’re in early. I think we should be in early. Domino’s is an innovative brand that should be learning in this space now. It’s not a big part of our business, but it’s important that we’re there and we’re learning how to improve it and refine it, rather than watching from the sidelines.”