How To

March 10, 2020

Innovation ideas to steal from Dominos, Penguin, JCDecaux and Vogue

Four case studies of digital innovation projects that worked so well they have become reference points in the industry.

Maija Palmer

4 min read

Stuck for inspiration? Here are four case studies of innovation projects that worked so well they have become industry reference points. These were shared at the World Disrupt Forum Strategy and Innovation summit last month.

Dominos Pizza: serving impatient online customers

Digital customers are increasingly impatient and demanding. Used to ordering a taxi or groceries with barely a touch of an app, they won’t stand for a fiddly user interface in any situation.

Louis Powell, UK head of digital experiences at Google, told attendees at the World Disrupt Forum that Dominos Pizza was a good example of how companies can push themselves to serve customers better.

The lesson: Go even further in your digital project. There is no limit to people’s love for convenience.

Dominos used to have a poorly designed website where it took customers 25 steps to order a pizza. Yet online sales took up less staff time and were more lucrative because it was easier to upsell to people online. Dominos challenged themselves to get the ordering down to just five steps — and then took it further. How about zero steps?

This meant building an app that allowed you to auto-order your last pizza again, simply by opening the app. You could change your order, but if you did nothing but open the app, your last pizza would be winging its way to you at top speed. It seemed to work: some 70% of Dominos’ orders now come from online.

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Penguin Books: combining business with doing good

Penguin Books, like many big companies, runs social responsibility projects that help communities. It is great when these have impact, and even better when they help the Penguin business too.

The lesson: the closer “for good” projects are to your main business, the more both sides will benefit.

Siena Parker, Penguin’s head of creative responsibility, said the Puffin World of Stories project, which it runs together with the UK’s National Literacy Trust, unexpectedly met both aims. The project helps primary school teachers manage school libraries and get new books. It is already broadly aligned with Penguin’s goals of helping create the next generation of keen readers (and book buyers).

But it had a more immediate benefit too. Working closely with primary schools taught Penguin new things about schools and book buying. Talking to teachers they learned that many primary schools were seeing a shortage of non-fiction books — feedback that is now helping inform decisions in the company’s purchasing department.

JCDecaux: Social projects that avoid “greenwash”

Advertising companies, which clutter up the urban landscape with their billboards and message, want to make sure they keep some goodwill with city planners and the general public by launching social projects.

There have been various attempts to show how advertising real-estate can be used to do good things, such as filtering air or even housing bees in the back of billboards. But some of it can seem, well, a bit like greenwash.

The lesson: There is nothing that creates goodwill like saving lives — and people will not mind so much that the rest of the time you are selling soap and phones.

Kate Tovey, director of commercial strategy and business transformation at JCDecaux, is still talking about the 2018 campaign in Sao Paulo, however, which managed to stand out from the rest.

JCDecaux developed an app that linked to the GPS in the smartphones of emergency services workers, and coordinated with the billboards at the side of the road to instruct drivers to move over, leaving the outer lane clear for the ambulance to pass through. It speeded up travel to hospital considerably, saving lives.

Condé Nast: Redefine what your core business stands for

Magazines and newspapers have been severely disrupted by the internet — old advertising models no longer make sense. But exactly how should media companies react?


Estelle Ayer, director of corporate strategy at Condé Nast, is heading up transformation at the venerable 110-year-old family-owned company. She started with one of the most iconic titles, Vogue.

The lesson: make sure you understand what the company REALLY sells. It is probably not the obvious physical thing.

Inertia at the company — as you might imagine — was formidable. But one thing that helped was getting the leadership to really understand the core of what Vogue stands for.

Just thinking about the magazine as a product — a physical magazine — was limiting. Sales of physical media are declining, but the Vogue brand itself still carries weight and authority. The team showed how this worked with a study in which people were asked to estimate the price of a little black dress. People consistently guessed it to be more expensive when it was in Vogue than when it appeared elsewhere. The brand association meant a huge uplift in perceived value. That is what Vogue sells to its readers and more importantly, to its advertisers.

With that in mind, it is a lot easier to make decisions about how to take the title into new areas online and on social media.