Pizza Bytes: CEO Shares How Data-Driven Marketing Revitalized Domino's


Shelly Porter with Patrick Doyle, ’88

Over coffee on a Tuesday morning in October, I sat down with a dozen other Booth students and alumni to hear Patrick Doyle '88, CEO of Domino's, recount his experience using marketing to transform the company.

From the advertising campaign that put Domino's back on the map five years ago (known affectionately as the 'Our Pizza Sucks' campaign) to the new capability to receive food orders through almost any channel, Doyle leverages analytics-driven marketing to push the company forward and meet the demands of a constantly changing consumer landscape.

"Marketing is now far more about data and analytics than it is about anything else," Doyle emphasizes. "Half of our sales are coming through digital channels. As consumers are shifting their behavior and spending time in front of different screens than they used to, we've got to be there. We are trying to do everything we can to make it easier to order from us than anybody else, and it generates extraordinary data."

A marketer myself, Domino's has stood out in the industry during the last few years as one of the leading brands in applying data to customer-facing executions. However, when Doyle began as CEO in 2010, the company's reputation and position were dramatically poorer than today. The effects of the economic downturn lingered and consumers spoke very negatively about the pizza; the status quo could not be maintained, and Doyle knew even before starting his role that something drastic needed to be done.

So Domino's overhauled their recipe and launched one of the boldest ad campaigns of any brand to date.

"We really had to break through, and we did something so dramatic that people tried the pizza" he stated. "We said, 'Look, we get it. You think our pizza sucks. We're sorry. We're going to fix it.' And we showed consumers talking about how much they hated our pizza….and it worked."

The campaign was not launched on a leap of faith, though. "We knew from the data that we had an incredibly good pizza, dramatically better than what we were selling before, and we had an ad that tested incredibly well. When you have all that… you go for it."

The importance of data in decision-making continues to expand as the use of digital technologies in marketing grows exponentially. Having a background that includes Booth's quantitative approach to marketing has served Doyle well in this environment. "The analytical foundation that I was getting [at Booth] that, when I was first going into marketing, felt like it didn't necessary apply, now is feeling very familiar to me because data and analytics is driving our business dramatically," he notes. Today at Booth, courses like Big Data and Machine Learning allow marketing students to be at the forefront of these emerging analytical technologies as faculty members proactively lay the groundwork for the future of the industry. For example, I took a course taught by Prof. Zvi Gilula entitled "Statistical Insights for Marketing, Consulting, and Entrepreneurship," which provided a methodology for interpreting data and applying the results to marketing objectives.

Doyle attended Booth as a part-time Evening student. At the time, he was part of the First Bank Scholars program, which selected promising young professionals with minimal work experience for admission to the school. "It gave me a foundation around business that was extraordinary. And because I was working at the same time, you're getting the practical side and you're seeing how what you're learning in the classroom affects what you're doing in the business. I thought it was fabulous. It was a hard couple of years, but looking back I wouldn't have done it any other way."

As an early career MBA student like Doyle, I certainly echo his sentiments. To participate in today's program, called Chicago Business Fellows, Booth applicants with less than three years of work experience are considered. The program provides skills and support via a weekly seminar during first quarter. Speaking from experience, the connections form quickly between program members and provide a fantastic network from the very beginning of their Booth education. During the seminars, topics such as leadership, team dynamics, business etiquette, and other foundational professional skills are covered to jumpstart professional development and provide momentum for Fellows to carry with them through their degree and beyond.

Booth students, faculty, and alumni alike share this motivation for ongoing inquiry. The school's full calendar of events, including this breakfast with Doyle, provides the unprecedented opportunity to learn from leaders across industries and gain insights into their foundational philosophies. Doyle, for one, is driven by a desire for constant progress. "Today, I worry about whether we are too relaxed," he says. "My job is to tell people that it won't continue like this. You have to drive change, we can't be happy where we are."

Shelly Porter | Current Evening MBA student |Chicago Business Fellow