Domino’s UK seeks CMO to fire up growth as Emily Somers exits

The Drum understands Domino’s is set to directly fill the top marketing vacancy

Domino's Pizza UK is on the hunt for a brand boss following on from the departure of its first chief marketing officer Emily Somers after just seven months in the job.

Whoever takes the hotseat will be faced with reviving the company's sales in an extremely crowded takeaway market and nurturing the brand against a backdrop of ongoing operational issues.

Somers, who headed up marketing for McDonald’s in the UK before joining Domino’s, was hired by the company in August to oversee sales, brand marketing, product development and innovation, reporting into soon-to-retire chief executive David Wild.

The Drum understands Domino’s is set to directly fill the top marketing vacancy following her resignation. A spokesperson said: “Emily has decided to leave Domino’s and we wish her the very best of luck for the future. We’ll announce her successor in due course."

Somers declined to comment.

It’s believed the marketer had already kicked off a brand strategy review, designed to make the business less reliant on deals in its marketing and play up to its unique strengths – including its shareability and ownership of the customer experience via tools like its ‘Pizza Delivery Tracker’.

Whoever steps into her shoes will likely take ownership of this fresh blueprint, but they will also have to navigate the myriad of challenges the business is facing from the boardroom down.

Operational woes

The pizza purveyor has close to 1,200 sites across the UK and Ireland which deliver a combined 100 million pizzas each year, the equivalent to more than six every second. However, the UK-listed arm of the global business is currently undergoing a period of flux.

Its chief marketer position now joins chief executive, chairman and chief financial officer on the brand’s open vacancies list and its “complex” long-running battle with franchisees (who want a bigger slice of its profits to offset their rising costs) remains ongoing in the UK.

Elsewhere, overambitious expansion into international markets including Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Iceland have incurred losses, forcing the business to withdraw and focus on its core market.

Earlier this month, Domino’s like-for-like sales growth slowed to 3.9% from 4.5% on-year for the quarter in the UK. ROI fell 1%, compared with a rise of 7.5% on-year. The FTSE 250-listed firm made a pre-tax profit of £30.5m for the first six months of the 2019 compared with £41.7m in the year-earlier period. On an underlying basis, pre-tax profit fell 7.4% to £42.3m, hit by challenges in the group's international operations.

Standing out in a crowded market

Analysts suggest that despite growing competition from aggregators like Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat – all of which offer a wide variety of cuisine for delivery and takeaway – Domino’s operational issues have come at a cost to not only its business but its brand and customer experience.

Last year, the brand unveiled a new proposition from VCCP, which won its £10m UK ad account from Iris in 2017.

Its most recent marketing campaign has sought to position the chain as the official sponsor of nights in, subverting the fear of missing out (AKA fomo) with a new sensation it calls ‘Jomo’, or the joy of missing out. Under a new brand lead, and strategy, it’s very likely this proposition will be rejigged to better reflect Domino’s position in a space crowded by choice.

In 2010, Domino's offset a sales droop by improving its online ordering tech, investing money into its in-house team to become a "technology-enabled, nimble, category-disrupting machine". With competitors like Pizza Hut set on toppling its crown consumers could see improvements made to its app and website to stave off another slump.

Still, Domino’s has maintained its monopoly on the UK pizza delivery market and with a 57% positivity rating in the UK and an engaged millennial consumer base there is still an opportunity for it to grow its share and boost sales in the meantime.

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