TLDR: Krispy Kreme engages its customers with a simple strategy: make a great product, then get it in front of as many people as possible.

So what: The company shows how you can create a winning customer engagement strategy based on the quality of your product. (Remember: it’s just fried dough.)

Krispy Kreme has seen ups and downs. Founded in 1937 in North Carolina, the company grew rapidly at the end of the 20th century before going public in 2000.

But then it posted significant losses, lost almost 80% of its stock value, and was investigated by the SEC for improper accounting. The company returned to private ownership in 2016.

After five years of rapid growth, Krispy Kreme went public again in 2021. Part of their rebound success is due to their sweet customer experience. They have a simple product, with a simple marketing strategy:

  • Make a great product, and keep it.
  • Get it in front of as many people as possible.
  • Encourage customers to share their purchases on social media.

This strategy has worked well for Krispy Kreme: revenue in 2021 was nearly $1.4 billion.

Make a great product, and keep it

Krispy Kreme has been making the same delicious, gooey donuts for 85 years. Entire nations have risen and fallen since that time, but the classic Krispy Kreme donut remains as delectable as ever.

Although the donut chain serves coffee and some other donut styles, the glazed original is still its main seller. Its popularity means that Krispy Kreme doesn’t really need to do a whole lot of extra marketing — people promote it themselves, by word of mouth.

Keeping the product consistent also helps in two important ways:

  • It creates an aura of nostalgia around the product.
  • It makes the product part of reliable customer habits.

Nostalgia is a hard property to come by. You can’t buy it: brands have to be around long enough to earn it. But when a brand feels nostalgic, that lends it an air of credibility, plus emotional pressure to buy.

Marketers are in the business of engineering consumer habits. The best way to build a strong purchasing habit is to keep your product simple and reliable.

Customers know that every Krispy Kreme donut they buy, no matter where or when, will be the same. That means one less decision to make for them, and one more sale.

Get in front of as many people as possible

Krispy Kreme loves to share its donuts. They give away free donuts every year as part of special limited edition promotions.

In a famous recent promotion, Krispy Kreme gave away free donuts to people getting vaccinated. They have since doubled their offer.

More regularly, they also give away free donuts as part of National Donut Day and the “Day of the Dozens”.

Giving away free products is perhaps the most direct way to promote your products. Krispy Kreme’s donuts are optimal for this strategy for two reasons:

  • They taste delicious.
  • They are cheap to produce.

Giving away a mediocre product would hardly encourage anyone to come back. And giving away an expensive product, like a car, would cost too much. Plus, one car is enough, but one Krispy Kreme donut is never enough.

The fact that Krispy Kreme’s donuts are so simple and consistent also helps. Once a customer has had one, they know what to expect for every future donut they eat.

Encourage customers to share their experiences

Krispy Kreme’s customer engagement has always relied on word of mouth. In the 21st century, that includes sharing on social media as well.

Working with partners like TINT, Krispy Kreme has pursued a multifaceted social media strategy. One strategy they have used is custom hashtags, including:

  • # krispykrememoments, for any and all spontaneous donut eatings.
  • # krispykremelove, for fan praise and adoration.
  • # hathathooray, used for the company’s 75th anniversary.
  • # hotlight, part of an immersive sensory experience. This hashtag alerted customers when their donuts were hot enough to pick up.

Krispy Kreme’s strategy for posting on social media is really just an extension of their strategy of giving away free donuts. They post free photos of donuts, some of which are quite artistic:

KrispyKreme social post.

Krispy Kreme in India has combined free giveaways with social media sharing. For Fathers’ Day 2014, they created a campaign for connecting people with their fathers. Participants entered on Facebook to order a free donut, iced with a message, and sent to their father.

How to engage customers the way Krispy Kreme does

Krispy Kreme’s strategy won’t work for every business. Not every product is as cheap and simple as glazed donuts. And Krispy Kreme has nearly a century of recognition to rely on, something which can’t be built overnight.

The best products to promote Krispy Kreme-style are usually:

  • Inexpensive to produce
  • Always the same
  • Easily enjoyable by most people

Donuts clearly fall into these three categories. Maybe your product does, too.

Regardless, focus on improving the quality of your product. If people like it, they will buy more, and tell their friends. Going the extra mile will pay dividends.

Give it away for free if you can. Brainstorm appropriate ways to do this. A mix of annual giveaways and one-off events is the way to go. Even better if you can get customers to perform an action for it, like getting a vaccine or contributing to a charity. People enjoy feeling that the giveaway is a “reward,” not just a free giveaway.

Finally, encourage people to share their experiences online. The internet is your friend here. Staying active on all channels helps, as does creating your own hashtags and memes.

At Media Shower, we help brands like yours build a customer engagement program that fits your needs. We understand the ins and outs of the strategies employed by companies as diverse as Starbucks, Alibaba, or Patagonia. This helps us to craft a unique plan for you.

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