The pizza power-player discusses his transition from agency exec to client marketer and the best parts of the job — besides free toppings
How did you end up in your current position — from your first job until now?
I started my career in New York at direct marketing agencies – working for Grey Direct and OgilvyOne. At Grey Direct I worked on the Microsoft account and the launch of the Microsoft network. That was really on the front of the dot-com boom, which was certainly exciting and a fast-paced time and felt a bit like the gold rush. I was asked by George Wiedemann, who was Grey Direct’s president/CEO at the time, to move over to the new Grey Direct e-marketing division. While other agencies were really approaching Web sites as an advertising medium, at Grey Direct our philosophy was that Web sites were direct response and really the ultimate one-to-one communication vehicle.
Then I made the transition to CRM as SVP and director of client services for the CRM division of Brann Worldwide. I led a team of very talented statisticians who leveraged demographic and behavioral data to build predictive models to ultimately drive the targeting of our communications. That was a very eye-opening experience for me. I had had the traditional direct marketing background – test cells and matrix – what I found when took over as head of CRM working with data was that targeting was driving the response rate. It made us realize this is a very data-driven industry, and I was happy about that transition because it put a greater amount of accountability on marketers.
Ultimately I was recruited to join Domino’s Pizza. The CMO was looking to build a precision marketing team from scratch and he reached out to me to build that team. A lot of friends and colleagues looked at me and asked ‘Why go into the quick-service restaurant space?’ Domino’s at that time was like an unpolished diamond with a very progressive leadership team. The fundamental difference between us and our competitors is we know exactly who our customers are because 80% of our business is delivery.
Under CEO Dave Brandon, Domino’s had invested in a proprietary point-of-sale system and was capturing customer name and address and purchase behavior and housing it in a database. He recognized the potential marketing applications associated with that data, but at that point they just didn’t have anyone in-house who knew how to use it or do anything with. So for me, moving to Domino’s really represented an opportunity to be the first company in the quick-service restaurant space to truly embrace direct marketing principles in all of its marketing.
Can you give a rundown of your average day?
My typical day starts around 5:30 in the morning because one of my two daughters, who are four and two, generally wakes me up before my alarm goes off because they want to know if the sun is up.
My workday really starts with reviewing the previous day’s sales results. One of the major benefits of our point-of-sale system is I can get real-time data on our stores. One of the things I spend a lot of time on is Web site visitation and online ordering sales results because they are terrific barometer to measure overall media effectiveness. I know instantaneously if a new campaign is working based on site visitation.
I think 30-40% of my day now is spent on new media, particularly around dominos.com and online ordering; very high-growth areas. I also speak to 3-4 franchisees a day, regarding marketing tests or offers that are running in their markets.
What is the toughest part of your job, and what part do you love the most?
The toughest part is separating great opportunities from good opportunities. Being as big as we are, I’m approached several times a day in both traditional and new media channels and every opportunity that Domino’s pursues is really at the expense of another opportunity. If you want to be a leader, you have to be willing to extend yourself and take some calculated risks with media to outflank your competition and move your business forward.
The part I love the most is the entrepreneurial spirit that really permeates the entire organization. Eighty percent of our system is comprised of three-store-or-less franchisees – they’re owner-operators and really the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit. With our franchise system it’s like having a 1200-member think tank.
What advice would you give someone just trying to get into the direct marketing or multimedia world?
First, as a marketer, be a business person first and a marketer second. A lot of people think ‘I watch TV, I know what’s funny and I can produce a TV spot that’s funny,’ but if you’re not selling more pizza, it’s of no value.
Number two, be an expert in the spectrum of media consumption behavior of your audience. When I started my career, you could really effectively communicate to your audience by running a few TV spots on the most popular networks. Nowadays, you need to surround your consumer and think it terms of 360 degrees – be where they work and where they play to ensure your brand retains its relevancy.
Last, but not least, listen to consumers. Marketing is no longer about talking to consumers, it’s about having a conversation. Look at Nike and Puma – they allow you to customize your shoes. Consumers want a brand that is a mirror, a reflection of who they want to be and who it helps them be.
Does someone stick out in your mind as being a mentor or role model figure as you made your way through the industry?
George Wiedemann was certainly a role model for me. He would take the time to meet with me even though I was one of the more junior people on his team. He really was big on moving the industry forward. He also really pushed the envelope – he expanded the agency into the e-marketing space and took a direct response approach to the internet when it was still in its infancy.
Do you ever eat competitor foods? From Pizza Hut or Subway perhaps?
No, never. It’s amazing how early kids can be associated with a brand because they’ll go to a birthday party and see a competitor’s pizza and won’t eat it. I swear I don’t beat it into them but my kids just know Daddy works for Domino’s.
I like spicy foods so I go with banana peppers, cheddar cheese and tomatoes on a thin crust.