Domino's Sensitive Head Chef Is a Marketing Guy
Solano's Title Actually VP-Innovation, but He Does Have Kitchen Skills
Domino's new campaign from Crispin Porter & Bogusky introduces the company's "head chef" Brandon Solano, who says of reports that his pizza tastes like cardboard and the sauce tastes like ketchup: "When you first hear it, it's shocking."
What the ad doesn't say is that Mr. Solano's title is actually VP-innovation. And he is in charge of R&D as well as Hispanic marketing. But while some might think the "chef" designation might seem a bit disingenuous in a campaign about honesty, doubters take note: Mr. Solano might not have a culinary degree, but he does run Domino's test kitchen, which is where he spends most of his time.
And yes, he works in a white chef coat.
Domino's is quick to point out that Mr. Solano does have a culinary background. He previously worked on the Calphalon brand for Newell-Rubbermaid, where he established the Calphalon Culinary Center for aspiring chefs and cooked with celebrity chefs like Michael Symon.
Domino's spokesman Tim McIntyre -- who noted that his own official title is VP-communications -- said referring to Mr. Solano as "head chef" is akin to referring to him as "spokesman." It's "nothing more than advertising semantics." Mr. Solano did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Domino's did consider running the spots with Mr. Solano's full title but ultimately rejected the idea. "When we looked at the ads with his real title, we knew consumers would be confused, so we changed it to something everyone felt reflected the true nature of his job and was something that consumers could understand," he said. And while the ads also gained credibility by referring to Mr. Solano as head chef, they conversely would have lost credibility by listing a title that would be meaningless to the average consumer, Mr. McIntyre said.
So is it common for top marketers to also be top chefs? Darren Tristano, exec VP of Technomic, the Chicago-based food consultancy group, noted that the VP-innovation post at most restaurant chains is increasingly a job for a marketing executive with real culinary chops. People in that position, he said, are expected to have some culinary education and experience and "a heavy hand in the recipes their restaurants are using," he said. This is a position, Mr. Tristano added, that wouldn't have fallen under the marketing department 15 years ago, "when you didn't see a lot of change in what restaurants serve." But now, "it's rapidly evolving and changing."
Mr. Solano and his team have developed every product Domino's has introduced in the past 18 months, including sub sandwiches, pasta bowls and the revised pizza.