Women to Watch

Women to Watch: Julia Oswald, Domino's

Fresh off Product Revamp, Top Strategist Aims to Build on Pizza Chain's Explosive 2010 Growth

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When Julia Oswald joined Domino's as VP-strategy and insights in November 2009, she was tasked with building out its research team with the goal of identifying what the next big change would be for the pizza chain. But Ms. Oswald joined Domino's just as it was about to launch, arguably, its riskiest campaign ever.

Julia Oswald
Julia Oswald

A month after she arrived, the company broke its bold "Pizza Turnaround" marketing blitz, wherein Domino's adopted a transparency tactic by admitting its pizza did not taste good and reformulating its 49-year-old recipe. Although much of the research for the turnaround was conducted before she arrived, Ms. Oswald was able to play a significant role.

In the first full quarter the campaign was active, Domino's posted a 14.3% jump in same-store sales -- a record for the fast-food industry, beating the highest gain, by McDonald's, of 14.2%. Domino's finished 2010 up 9.9%

But that kind of turnaround prompted Domino's to understand why it was having such success. "[The campaign] captured a cultural need for transparency, and consumers welcomed that ," Ms. Oswald said. "What we really improved was our ability to assess that launch."

Ms. Oswald also played an integral role in a revamp of the company's chicken offering, which launched in February. It was the first big innovation from an insights perspective through Ms. Oswald's team. (Her department has gone from one full-time person and a consultant to a team of six and counting.)

The company refreshed its chicken menu -- boneless chicken and wings -- and launched a national ad campaign, the first focused on chicken since 2002.

One challenge the company faces is beating the growth it experienced in 2010. "We have some great ideas moving forward. We feel confident about what we have under our belts," she said.

Russell Weiner, chief marketing officer at Domino's joked: "Let me know when the 'Research Professionals to Watch' issue is coming out, because Julia Oswald is the best researcher I've ever worked with."

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