When two Domino’s Pizza employees filmed a gross prank in the kitchen of the restaurant in Conover, North Carolina, the company suddenly had a major public relations crisis on its hands.74 The video ended up posted on YouTube and other sites and showed a Domino’s employee performing unsanitary and vulgar actions while preparing food, with another employee providing narration. By the next day, over a million disgusted people had viewed the video and discussion about Domino’s had spread throughout Twitter and Google.
As Domino’s quickly realized, social media has the power to take tiny incidents and turn them into marketing crises. A company spokesperson said Domino’s had no idea the video had been shot and posted online. When the company first learned about the video, executives decided not to respond aggressively, hoping the controversy would quiet down. What they missed, though, was how these videos can go viral so quickly. The chief marketing officer of a social media marketing firm said companies make a mistake when they assume a negative video will not spread because all too often it does—as Domino’s discovered in this case. In just a matter of days, Domino’s reputation was damaged. Customers’ perception of its quality went from positive to negative. One brand expert said videos showing what this one did, even if the employees never intended to sell the tainted food, can create a situation where customers will think twice about purchasing that product.
So what happened to the two employees? Although they told Domino’s execu- tives they never actually delivered the tainted food, they were fired and charged with a felony. And Domino’s posted its own video featuring its top manager addressing the incident on YouTube not long after it occurred.
· 14-17. Beyond its being vulgar and disgusting, what do you think of this situation from the perspective of managing communications?
· 14-18. Why do you think Domino’s executives took a wait-and-see attitude? Why was this response a problem?
· 14-19. How could this type of communication problem be prevented at other Domino’s Pizza restaurants?
· 14-20. Do incidents like this one and the possibility of them happening anywhere, anytime, mean that all forms of social media should be banned from workplaces? What are the implications for policies regarding communication technology? Discuss.