Russell Weiner, Domino’s

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As a marketing veteran himself, Doyle immediately understood how arresting the approach would be, but he couldn’t help but hear alarm bells. “You’re never supposed to repeat the negative,” Doyle said. “We were going to repeat the negative—loudly. As it turns out, it’s what got people’s attention.”

What type of attention though? Initially, late-night talk show hosts and stand-up comedians remarked on the elephant in the room: Why would a company issue such a public mea culpa? Was this brilliant or bone-headed? “It’s like that old saying, ‘There is no one so brave as he who has nothing to lose,'” says Robert Passikoff, president of research firm Brand Keys. “Remember, they weren’t poisoning people, but taste was the one glitch on the radar. And being upfront really proved meaningful.”

Indeed. Domino’s sales in the first quarter soared 14.3 percent, and researcher Millward Brown later found that the ads were among the most effective they’d tested in years. At a time when many restaurants continued to struggle in the sagging economy, Domino’s followed its Q1 jump with a fat 8.8 percent sales increase in Q2.

John Hall, a franchisee with five stores in suburban New York and a member of the chain’s marketing advisory board, says he was never nervous about the strategy. “Russell’s a great listener,” says Hall, “and this is the unique approach he came up with after understanding what was wrong.”

Doyle, overjoyed with the lightning-fast results, credits Weiner’s strengths in left- brain processes and right-brain creativity. “We’ve found a voice that’s very compelling,” says Doyle.

He adds: “It dramatically changed our momentum, and we can build on this going forward. We feel very good now about our understanding of the brand.”