Burger King has been on a roll with promotions that troll archrival McDonald's (NYSE: MCD) and generate substantial publicity and social media mileage.
Now Domino's (NYSE:DPZ) is trying something similar, launching a promotion ahead of last weekend's Super Bowl that gives customers the chance to win a free pizza by snapping photos of the competition's pies to earn points. Collect enough points and you can get a free pie.
But where Burger King introduced customers to its products as well as gained exposure, possibly converting customers to its sandwiches, the pizza shop will likely fall short of winning over new customers and could actually boost the competition.
A convoluted chance to win
Along with chicken wings, pizza is one of the biggest food orders placed on Super Bowl Sunday. Domino's anticipated it would sell 40% more pizza that day than it would on an average Sunday, while Yum Brands' Pizza Hut expected to sell 1.5 million pies during the big game.
Perhaps Domino's helped Pizza Hut reach that number. In a press release announcing the new promotion, Domino's Senior Vice President and Chief Brand Officer Art D'Elia is quoted as saying, "Instead of advertising during Sunday's game, we decided to invest in a breakthrough program that rewards everyone who loves pizza as much as we do. We know everyone is asking themselves, 'Did Domino's just say they will award points for eating ANY pizza? Even from a competitor?' You read that right; oh yes we did!"
To participate, people have to download the Domino's app and sign up for the "Piece of the Pie Rewards" program. The app will scan what you're eating and determine if it's a pizza.
The new Domino's is infused with artificial intelligence that can identify just about any pizza, whether it's from another pizzeria, is made from English muffins, or is simply a pizza-shaped chew toy for a dog (yes, that counts toward winning a pie).
Domino's may want to convert as many people as possible to its pizza by comparing its pies to those of the competition, but the way the promotion is structured suggests few will actually do so.
He who delays gratification is lost
The promotion runs for 12 weeks through April and awards customers 10 points for each picture they upload through the app. Earn 60 points and you can get a free Domino's pizza. The catch is you can only upload one picture a week, so it will take at least six weeks to get that free pie.
That's simply too long. McDonald's can run its popular Monopoly promotion over several weeks (and months) because customers are buying burgers and fries to collect prize pieces. It's generating sales in the process.
Similarly, Burger King's Whopper Detour gimmick offered customers a chance to get one of its signature Whoppers for a penny if they used its newly revamped BK app and ordered it in or near a McDonald's restaurant. Then it gave away its new Big King XL sandwich to customers who bought it using a MacCoin, a commemorative coin McDonald's handed out last year in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Big Mac.
Customers were getting instant gratification, and the Restaurant Brands International (NYSE:QSR) chain very likely converted a bunch of people to its burgers in the process.
That's not what Domino's is doing by dragging the chance to win out over six weeks. And if customers don't eat pizza every week, it could take longer. It's more likely they'll forget about the contest, or lose interest, before they get around to ordering a Domino's pie.
What's the point?
Maybe Domino's is betting the free publicity will make this promotion more cost-effective than running an ad during the Super Bowl, which this year cost $5.25 million for a 30-second spot. But if winning over customers was its goal, it looks like this gimmick will fail.
When it comes to trolling the competition, Domino's doesn't have nearly the game Burger King does.