Sunday, January 24, 2010

Domino's Stinks, but Do We Really Want It to Get Better?

Domino's has recently been running an ad campaign saying how bad its pizza is. You can see a long version of the commercial here. The ad begins with claims that the Domino's pizza "tastes like cardboard" and "microwave pizza is far superior." It ends with the new CEO vowing to listen to the complaints and improve. The advertising value of this technique is dubious: The first time I saw the ad didn't exactly inspire me to want to order a pizza, but it has spurred several conversations and led to this blog post. Maybe any publicity is good publicity.

In many industries, cheap, inferior products dominate the industry. Check out the best selling beers in the United States. Taste is a matter of personal preference, of course, but few would argue that Bud Light is the best-tasting beer around. Yet we continue to buy it, and we aren't hounding Anheuser-Busch for a better product.

Everything in life involves tradeoffs. If the pizza is going to be of better quality, it's going to be more expensive. If the pizza is going to be more flavorful (again, a subjective quality), it will have less appeal to the mainstream. In almost every U.S. city, there are fancier pizza options available, yet Domino's continues to make money. There is room in our economy for sellers of subpar pizza, as evidenced by the number of people who buy it. Many people prefer the lowest common denominator, because its cheap price allows them to have money left over to splurge on the things they're really passionate about. We don't need to have the best of everything; it's just too expensive.