Pizza retailer Domino’s has been slammed by both customers and experts over a “knee-jerk” marketing campaign ran via its Facebook page last night, promoting 10,001 free pizzas from its new “premium” pizza line.
The free pizza campaign was launched after a similar deal was offered last Friday by competing pizza chain Pizza Hut, which offered fans 10,000 free margherita pizzas in response to Domino’s plans to cut the pizza from its new menu.
On Wednesday morning, Domino’s responded with a promotion of its own, telling its one million Facebook fans if they visited the page at 4:00pm, they could enter their details for a chance to win one of 10,001 pizzas.
With a great deal of hype quickly stirred up for the promotion, as 4:00pm rolled around, Domino’s Facebook page and the associated promotions app were bombarded with customers, straining the application to the point of crashing.
Get business news first
Sign up to SmartCompany’s daily newsletter
Fans were quick to call out Domino’s poor handling of the giveaway, with some going as far to accuse the retailer of “false advertising” and calling for a boycott in favour of other pizza sellers.
“I’ve been online refreshing your free pizza page since 4 p.m. and receiving dead pages until now it has disappeared altogether. This is akin to false advertising. All goodwill towards your company is now GONE and I will be shopping with your competition,” wrote one comment writer.
Additionally, fans who were lucky enough to land one of Domino’s free pizza codes were disappointed when they reached the online checkout, as those seeking to have their freebies delivered required another purchase of at least $22 to redeem the voucher, turning a “free” pizza into a two-for-one deal.
“Load of rubbish. Tried numerous times, finally got a code then minimum spend was $22 (even when I selected pickup)! This wasn’t stated so please tell us this in future,” wrote one pizza enthusiast.
Creating an outrage trifecta was the fact that customers hoping to receive a voucher using a mobile device found the application Domino’s was using to facilitate the promotion could not be used on mobile. This led to further comments questioning how the codes could be received on a mobile device.
Marketing expert at Marketing Angels Michelle Gamble says Domino’s promotion seemed to be a “knee-jerk reaction” to Pizza Hut’s initial offer, saying the stuff-up likely did unnecessary damage to the brand.
“Domino’s has been distracted by their competitors when they never should have been. They have won so much market share because of the tech side of their business and now they’ve diluted that positioning by running a promotion[that was] so poorly backed up on the technology side,” Gamble told SmartCompany.
“Responding to competitors can be a massive distraction for brands and can be quite damaging. All they needed to do was remind customers what’s so great about Domino’s.”
In a statement to SmartCompany, a spokesperson for Domino’s said the company had experienced “unprecedented demand from pizza lovers” and apologised for the delays and outages customers experienced when trying to claim the promotion.
“We partnered with one of the world’s leading providers in online competitions and the response from our fans was amazing. More than 100,000 people logged on in the space of 90 minutes. Almost a third of those people who received a voucher have already enjoyed their free premium pizza,” the spokesperson said.
Gamble says any businesses looking to spruik “free” items through promotions should make it clear in the initial promotion any terms and conditions, such as Domino’s $22 minimum for online deliveries.
“If it’s not free, you can cause yourself a lot of problems with customers and even potentially get into trouble with the ACCC,” she says.
“Promotions like these can leave a lot of room for error, so it should be about sitting down and reminding customers why they buy from your business over other competitors.”