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How Domino’s 1980s ‘Avoid the Noid’ Campaign Led to a Bizarre Hostage Situation

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0 / Cropped
Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0 / Cropped

There are some extremely well-known fast food mascots: Colonel Sanders, Ronald McDonald, and the Hamburglar. Yet for every incredible branding success are many more that just never resonated with customers. In the 1980s, Domino’s Pizza introduced their own new mascot that didn’t fall out of popularity because customers didn’t like it, but because it turned into a horrific PR nightmare.

The Noid

In 1986, Domino’s Pizza introduced their new mascot, ‘the Noid,’ a buck-toothed character wearing a red, skin-tight rabbit suit. The company was looking for something that could make them competitive with Pizza Hut. The mascot would be featured in a series of commercials to promote their 30-minute guarantee promotion: the pizza must be delivered within this time span or the entire order would be discounted or made free.

Tattoo of the Noid on someone's arm.
A detail photo of the Noid tattooed on a fan’s arm, January 18, 2017. (Photo Credit: Ben Hasty/ MediaNews Group/ Reading Eagle/ Getty Images)

The commercials were entertaining, showing the Noid attempting to prevent delivery drivers from getting orders to their destinations. While the Noid did everything he could to try and stop them, including using his ‘pizza crusher,’ he never succeeded. Instead, he was used to show that only Domino’s Pizza could deliver food that was ‘Noid-proof.’ He ended up becoming an incredibly popular character.

Pop-culture icon

Not only was the Noid the star of all Domino’s commercials at the time, but he was also included in video games and made into a line of toys. In 1989, a computer game called Avoid the Noid was created, requiring players to deliver a pizza within 30 minutes while they attempted to outsmart the Noid. In 1990, a different game was made for the Nintendo Entertainment System called Yo! Noid, where, playing as the Noid, people would try to stop his evil doppelganger.

The only failed entertainment endeavor featuring the Noid was the proposed 1988 CBS cartoon series, The Noids. Although plans were made, there was a lot of public backlash against the idea as consumers felt like it wasn’t really going to be a children’s show – just more advertising for Domino’s. Around this same time, there were some problems going on with the advertising campaign.

A hostage situation

The Noid himself was never problematic, but rather it was the 30-minute guarantee that he promoted. There were an increasing number of accidents and lawsuits caused by delivery drivers rushing to get their orders to arrive on time. And this was just the beginning. Ultimately, the decision to cancel the Noid was all but made for Domino’s when a man named Kenneth Lamar Noid incited a hostage situation. He felt that the new commercials were personally targeting him and had stolen his name.

The Noid toy.
One of the Noid toys created by Domino’s Pizza. (Photo Credit: billdotd/ Flickr/ CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

On January 30, 1989, he entered a Domino’s location in Georgia with a gun, holding two employees hostage for hours. First, he attempted to get $100,000 from the company head office, along with an escape limousine. Then, deciding he was hungry, he forced the employees to make him a pizza, allowing them to escape while he ate. Although he was arrested, he was found innocent due to insanity.

More from us: The Controversial History of the McDonald’s Happy Meal

Domino’s Pizza denies that the hostage situation was the reason they got rid of the Noid, but one can’t help but notice that they stopped using him quite soon afterward. The company has, however, brought him back for the occasional promotion, including on t-shirts in 2009, and in a 2021 commercial called “Return of the Noid.”

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.