Monday, April 20, 2009

Domino Effect Goes Digital

Could the actions of two, entry-level employees potentially sabotage the efforts of your brand, no matter how big and profitable it may be?

If there names are Michael and Kristy - and they work for you - it would appear the answer is an unequivocal yes.

These are two, self-identified, Dominos employees in Conover, North Carolina who thought it comical to disrespect their employer, their brand and the customers responsible for providing their paycheques, by posting a YouTube video of what really goes on in their kitchen.

As soon as the video was posted, it packed the punch of the most potent Alabama Slammer, taking on the life of a Carolina Hurricane. Within days, it had been viewed more than a million times on YouTube; references to the incident dominated the front page Google search for “Dominos,” and a tidal wave of opinions were surfing throughout Twitter.

As if we need more confirmation that the "challenge" of building a "seamless" brand in the Digital Age is a tall order. This incident, however isolated, does demonstrate how any crackpot with a camera and a web connection can jeopardize the reputation of a brand that's nearly half-a-century old, as well as the reputations of 125,000 hard-working men and women in 60 countries around the world.

Is your brand prepared to react the way Dominos has?

Domino's is getting top grades from crisis-management gurus on its handling of this firestorm. And readers like you are getting a huge heads on how to protect your brand in an online world where anyone with a video camera and a grudge can bring a company to its knees with lightning speed.

Here is how the President of Dominos Pizza, Patrick Doyle has responded.

Arrest warrants have been issued for the two employees; Michael Anthony Setzer, 32, of Conover, N.C., and Kristy Lynn Hammonds, 31, of Taylorsville, N.C., for food tampering which is a felony in North Carolina.

The lessons from this story will continue to unfold over the next few weeks, but already it seems foolhardy to build and manage a brand without plugging into social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. By doing so, you can respond quickly and extinguish fires in a hurry like Domino's, who responded within hours, posting the Doyle video and establishing a Twitter account.

This incident also underscores the need to educate front-line employees with respect to brand values, social-media awareness and the creation of a positive company culture, making it far less likely for workers to rip apart a company online. In this case, a company that began in 1960 when Tom Monaghan and his brother James bought a small pizzeria in Ypsilanti, Michigan, secured by a $75 down payment, with another $500 borrowed to pay for the store. Eight months later, James quit the partnership and traded his half of the business to Tom for a used Volkswagen Beetle. Headquartered just outside Ann Arbor, Michigan, Tom's hard work and sacrifices made by pioneering franchisees allowed Dominos to grow to about 8,500 corporate and franchised stores, providing countless opportunities along the way.

Building brand equity takes an enormous amount of time, effort and resources to build.

Only one mistake to destroy.

Unless you face the bastards head on.

"In a crisis, don't hide behind anything or anybody. They're going to find you anyway"

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