Making The Move From CMO To President: Domino’s Russell Weiner Shares Challenges & Rewards Of New Role
The one-time CMO says he now has an even greater appreciation for the effect of marketing initiatives on store operations.
Pepperoni may be Domino’s Pizza’s most popular pizza topping, but it turns out the brand’s president Russell Weiner is a veggies guy.
“I’m a carnivore, but this is my favorite pizza and the best way for me to enjoy eating my vegetables,” says Russell Weiner who admits his favorite pizza order is Domino’s Pacific Coast Veggie specialty pizza.
Last year, we were lucky enough to interview Domino’s Pizza’s Russell Weiner for our Get to Know CMO profile series. By the time the interview published, the former CMO had been named president.
Now responsible for his entire organization, Weiner says his views on marketing and branding have not changed; if anything, he says, he now has an even greater appreciation for the effect of marketing initiatives on store operations.
“Successful marketing must influence consumers without negatively effecting operations,” says Weiner, “There are cases where big changes might be necessary, but this can’t be a consistent demand from marketers.”
When asked about any unexpected challenges of his new role, Weiner says people push back on him less now.
“I need their honest opinions and sometimes the title gets in the way,” says Weiner, “I have been used to being the person with ‘all the answers’ the last few years. I now need to lean on experts for their advice and leadership.”
The former CMO says his insights-based approach to marketing has not changed since becoming president, and that he still loves ‘big ideas’ as long as they are based on data.
“In my six-plus years at Domino’s, I believe I demonstrated to the organization that marketing is a science, as well as an art,” says Weiner, “This approach to decision-making is very transferable outside of marketing.”
Weiner said it wasn’t difficult to let go of his former responsibilities, and stop focusing solely on his brand’s marketing efforts.
“I have a tremendous team that was elevated with my move. They deserved the new challenges, and I am incredibly happy with mine.”
Before transitioning into the top leadership role, Weiner already had experience shaping the brand’s future when he was tasked with an initiative to update Domino’s mission.
“One of the last projects I was asked to lead as CMO was working with our leaders from around the world on an updated company mission and vision,” says Weiner.
Based on insights and consumers, and entrenched in the brand’s history, Weiner says it has been rewarding to watch how Domino’s new mission and vision has affected the company’s culture, “We are all speaking the same language.”
Reimagining the company’s mission and vision wasn’t the first time Weiner had been part of an organization-wide initiative. Earlier during his tenure as the brand’s CMO, Domino’s underwent a major change.
In 2010, the restaurant launched its “Pizza Turnaround,” a campaign that involved changing its core product, and running an advertising campaign that admitted its pizza wasn’t as good as it could be.
More of a business-changing initiative than a marketing push, the project gave Weiner a deeper understanding of how his company worked, and how decisions impacted all facets of the organization – operations, finance and the franchises.
“We needed to convince folks who had been part of our company for decades that this was a good decision,” says Weiner, “The project gave me in-depth exposure to these areas and its success helped lay a foundation of trust that I continue to leverage in my new role.
Since Weiner’s move from marketing to leading the entire organization, Domino’s has rolled out a first-of-its kind campaign which the brand calls its AnyWear Platform. Customers can now make a Domino’s order from virtually any device.
“Twitter, SMS, TV, watches, Ford Synch and more – you can actually order using a pizza emoji,” says Weiner, “What’s easier – or more cool – than that?”
Aside from telling his mom, Weiner says the outpouring of support he has received from franchisees has been the best thing about being appointed president. “Their support means more to me than anything.”
Domino’s Pizza currently has approximately 900 independent franchise owners in the U.S. According to the brand’s corporate website, more than 90 percent of its franchise owners started their careers as drivers, pizza makers or hourly workers.
For marketing executives who aspire to move further up the leadership ladder, Weiner says you must be a leader to your department and a business partner in your company.
“Learn the business and contribute – without crossing boundaries into someone else’s area – whenever you can,” says Weiner, “Make sure you work well with other departments. They are critical to getting anything important done – a good relationship with them shows your CEO you can work well with others.”
As for Domino’s future and how Weiner plans to lead his brand, the president said whatever his company accomplishes, he hopes its six consecutive years of same-store sales growth doesn’t slow down.