Recently, I was at one of my favorite sports websites and tried to view a video that was a highlight of a recent Minnesota Twins game.  Well, unfortunately for me, the video was taken down by Major League Baseball (MLB) for copyright violation.  I continued to search for other relevant baseball highlights and came up empty.  I couldn’t find any broadcast highlights of the Red Sox 2004 World Series run.  Nothing from the Yankees’ clinching game 6 victory in this past year’s World Series.

What is the point of this “strategy?”  I understand why they may want to keep highlights of a recently played game as copyrighted material in hopes to drive web traffic to the team websites, the MLB Network, or MLB.TV.  One would think the league would want to have as many highlights on YouTube to continue growth of their very well known brand.  Perhaps MLB’s marketers or crack legal team know their target audience doesn’t go to YouTube for their baseball highlights.  If that’s the case, I would dispute that with this research I found by ESPN that shows most sports fans are in the 18-34 age demographic and are male.  Fairly obvious, right? Oh, and at the bottom of the page it mentions that “68% of Avid Sports Fans used the Internet in the past 30 days.”  Oops!

MLB is trying to push their World Series DVD sets on fans of teams that win the Autumn Classic.  I get that and it makes great sense.  However, there has to be a way for fans to have the best of both worlds.  Some free, some paid content.

Perhaps there is a very memorable game in the regular season that someone wishes to see over and over again.  An example of this would be the recent no hitter by Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez.  One for me would be last year’s heart-stopping AL Central Division tiebreaker game between my Twins and the Detroit Tigers.  I am hogging 3 hours of space on my DVR right now because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to get that game on DVD or be able to see it again elsewhere.

At least they have full games from the current season available to stream if you have the MLB.TV subscription.  Why can’t they offer every game to be downloaded for a low price with copy protection?  They also have a classic game section where you can view (for $6.95 a year) some classic games, but there is only a selection of thirty games.  Why not raise the price and include much more?

It would be great if they made partial highlights available on YouTube (and possibly disable embedding to cover themselves on the copyright front) on their own MLB channel there to supplement highlights available at  The supplemental highlights could include more plays, player/manager interviews after the game, and maybe recaps by the team broadcasters.  I think that could be a great way to drive more traffic to or affiliated team sites, yet still grow the brand by keeping some sort of presence on YouTube.

In my opinion, FREE drives brand growth on the internet.  The more free material your customers can get, the more likely it is they will be driven to some sort of purchase down the road and become life long customers.  Don’t get me wrong, I think their online strategy is decent in driving revenue, but I believe MLB is not seeing the forest of larger revenue streams through the trees of their paid content and constant pulling down of videos on YouTube .

Recently I did a blog post about the bold strategy of Domino’s Pizza changing their pizza recipe in response to customer feedback and in hopes of increasing sluggish sales.

Apparently, the initial campaign has been a resounding success.  In fourth quarter 2008, Domino’s saw profits of $11 million, or 19 cents a share.  This past quarter they saw their profits increase to $23.6 million, or 41 cents a share.  That is an amazing result especially given the current sluggish state of the economy.

It seems as though the strategy has worked in the short term.  As the AP article I found on the subject states, “The question remains, though, whether Domino’s can keep the momentum going, or whether the novelty of the new recipe will wane.”

I believe if Domino’s can continue their involvement in social media to supplement the campaign, they may be able to see sustained success with this strategy. This could be where they see a large segment of new customers who perhaps may not have tried the new recipe otherwise.  I’m basing this on the supposition that people will see their “friends” in social media spaces talk about the product and based on their friends’ input, a new segment of people will try the pizza.

The problem is, when this campaign first began, Domino’s was using a lot of television advertising to supplement the new website and social media campaign. A lot of people who saw those commercials and were interested in the new recipe most likely tried it once (based on the  profit figures).  However, if the ads don’t continue to remind people about the new recipe and continue to promote the Domino’s brand, they could see an even bigger drop off in sales.

If I were in charge of the campaign, I would start supplemental ads regarding the popularity of the new pizza recipe that would include metrics of their success. Perhaps something like, “X out of X people LOVED the new taste of Domino’s Pizza! Why not try it and see what everyone is talking about?” Then it includes the people who have tried it and reaches out to those who have not as of yet.

Recently Domino’s Pizza announced they were changing the recipe for their pizza.

In the above-linked USA Today article, consultant Howard Gordon mentions “I don’t know of any (restaurant) company that has attempted this.” In any industry, changing a winning formula seems like business “suicide.”  Gordon later makes a powerful statement; “Once you’ve built a brand, that’s your brand,” says Gordon. “To change it means that everything you’ve stood for isn’t right.”

This youtube video is a short documentary that was edited into a commercial I recently saw on TV.  It tells the story of how Domino’s received feedback from customers about their pizza (via Twitter users, mostly) and took those criticisms and used them as motivation to make a better pizza.  Dominos has set up an exclusive website for the campaign where customers can view the documentary as well as a Twitter feed featuring tweets about the new pizza.  Obviously they haven’t filtered or changed the tweets because some of them are pretty critical of the pizza.  One such tweet says “Dominos new pizza crust recipe is like eating really buttery, garlicy bread…fail. Bad breath factor, over the top!”  Yikes.  Again, this is all part of the campaign, so I suppose you have to take some bad with the good feedback.

So why make such a drastic change?

Many companies try to improve the quality of their product or even advertise they have a “new and improved” product.  However, publicly admitting in one of your advertisements that people didn’t like your product is either sheer madness or pure genius.  Perhaps this means Domino’s is the first mature company that will drastically change how others do business.  There are numerous companies in the mature stage of the product/company lifecycle.  Maybe when growth stagnates, you throw a “hail mary” and go for it all? Due to the unprecedented nature of Domino’s Pizza’s strategy, there isn’t really much to compare it to.  Again, maybe since no one has thought to do this before, they are on to something here.

Think of the costs associated with doing something like this.  I’m sure there were plenty of focus groups (some were featured in the documentary), new product development, marketing research, advertising, etc.  This was not just an ordinary marketing campaign.  I can only guess that either the execs at Domino’s thought the amount of publicity a “stunt” like this would create would exceed the value put in to the change or they were truly desperate to make significant change to turn around the company.  What other reason would there be for alienating your best customers that loved your pizza and have kept you in business for fifty years?  I would think they’d have to gain _many_ new customers and retain a lot of their long-time ones to make this venture a success.

Yes, really!

I was a bit perplexed as to why Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo would make the decision to lower overdraft fees, especially considering service fees are the lifeblood of financial services companies’ bottom lines.  Then I realized the marketing impact of these decisions.  These companies can take advantage of the fact that they were the initial leaders in making this drastic change to their respective overdraft policies. Whoever can effectively communicate this fact first could have a huge advantage in attracting new customers and positioning themselves as the bank that “cares” about its customers.  I’m sure advertising, direct mail, and branch promotions are soon to follow this news.

The other question that comes to mind is- where is the additional revenue going to come from for these banks?  Obviously reducing fees takes away from the bottom line and these institutions may gain market share by attracting new customers, but the additional revenue from the new business wouldn’t be enough.  Since these banks are the few large banks remaining after the recent credit crisis, perhaps they have more resources available for acquiring smaller banks and attaining additional business that way.

Regardless, this is a major move in the financial services industry. Perhaps impending legislation was the motive behind the policy changes.  Or, perhaps the banks’ “dirty secret” is out and they need to make the move to save face.  In this case, it appears as a public relations move to increase goodwill.  It will definitely be interesting to see how the changes affect the industry going forward. We’ll see in the future, when these banks announce earnings and if shareholders agree with the decision or decide to sell.