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Domino’s and ‘Stranger Things’ want you to order pizza with telekinetic powers

It’s not supernatural, but the pizza chain is using face recognition and eye-tracking tech to make customers feel like they have mind control.

Domino’s and ‘Stranger Things’ want you to order pizza with telekinetic powers
[Image: courtesy of Dominos]

For years, Domino’s has been working on and unleashing new and increasingly convenient ways to order a pizza. Of course, there’s the familiar Pizza Tracker, which lets you know the status of your order, but there’s the pizza emoji order, Slack order, Samsung TV order, the Amazon Echo order, the Facebook Messenger order, and the zero-click order.

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Now to celebrate the upcoming fourth season of the Netflix hit Stranger Things, the pizza chain has gone a step farther and made it possible to order a pizza—with your mind.

Working with creative agency WorkInProgress and interactive production studio Unit9, Domino’s has enabled facial recognition and eye-tracking tech into its app to make ordering your favorite pizza feel eerily like mind control. Domino’s senior vice president of brand and innovation, Kate Trumbull, says Netflix reached out in early 2021 to gauge the brand’s interest in a collaboration for the new Stranger Things season.

Clearly, Trumbull and everyone else at Domino’s were familiar with the myriad of brand partners that Netflix had brought in for the last season—Nike, Coke, Baskin-Robbins, and more—and the goal was to make something unique.

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“You can do small things, you can do gimmicky things, you can not take risks, or you can go all in,” says Trumbull. “This is a play to reach a younger audience, and their expectations are higher, they don’t want to be advertised to in obvious ways. They want to do things that are unique and experiential, and that contributes to our desire to do something more. And when you do have a big idea as simple as mind ordering, and harnessing Eleven’s telekinetic abilities, it spreads.”

In this case, it spread to new, retro-themed pizza boxes, as well as a three-minute ad starring Stranger Things stars Caleb McLaughlin and Gaten Matarazzo, and shot by Oscar-nominated director Ted Melfi.

To give it the right Stranger Things feel, WorkInProgress creative Jake Roberts says Netflix gave the brand access to show creators The Duffer Brothers, and had them shoot in the same locations as the show, used the same sound design, crew, set dressers–all of it. “[Netflix was] as committed as we were to make it as authentic as possible,” says Roberts. “We both wanted the video to feel like a deleted scene from the show, and we set about making the app as [fun and immersive] as possible.”

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Is it actually mind-ordering? Don’t be silly.

To actually place an order using the mind-ordering app, much like its zero-click version, you do need a Pizza Profile with an existing saved Easy Order. Still, the win here is how the brand has taken what could’ve been a pretty fun-but-standard TV show deal—co-branded pizza boxes, maybe some retro merch—and added an entire level of creative utility, directly connecting Stranger Things fandom with its actual product and sales.

In the coming weeks, the brand will also be rolling out a Snapchat Lens, as well as a TikTok Hashtag Challenge.

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity.

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