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Q-and-A with Krispy Kreme CMO Dwayne Chambers

4 min read


Krispy Kreme has consolidated many of the local and regional marketing and advertising efforts that grew up through the years and focused more on using social media to keep the brand conversation going among the 75-year-old chain’s legions of fans. Restaurant-marketing veteran Dwayne Chambers has led the transition since taking over as chief marketing officer last year. I spoke with Chambers recently about what social brings to the brand.

What does it mean that Krispy Kreme’s social strategy lets fans “own” the brand?

When you look at social media and the resources available to the individual, they do have some level of ownership. The effect they can have on the brand is much greater than what they could have had five, 10 and, in our case, 75 years ago. People refer to the local shop as “My Krispy Kreme.” It’s like a college football team; you have an emotional connection to your team and when things don’t go right, you think you have the right to tell the coach what he’s doing wrong.

Marketers have always felt like we own the brand, people would even say that internally in some places. We feel like we need to control every aspect of the brand, and today you can’t. You can either fight that or embrace it, and when you have a great brand, you let go and let the fans do a lot of the marketing for you.

How do social campaigns differ from more traditional marketing efforts?

Generally, we don’t even look at social as a campaign. It would almost be like talking about, “Well, I’m going to have my entire family over for Thanksgiving,” and talking about that as a campaign and my objectives and what I plan to do. Social becomes part of the nature of everything that we do. If we’re going to do a new product or some new event that’s going on, how do we talk to people and let them know?

Taking the Thanksgiving analogy, I could send out a letter that says “Dear Relative,” or I can do it as a part of my ongoing conversation with them. First of all, I hope that I’m already doing it. If I haven’t talked to them in five years, they probably won’t come; if we’re talking already, it feels very natural.

How do you measure return on investment?

For our brand, it starts with our mission, which is, “to touch and enhance lives through the joy that is Krispy Kreme.” That is a fundamental conversation in every decision we make, from whether to build a shop, to how to price products, to how to handle ourselves as an employer. Our belief is if we’re doing that, then all the other stuff will fall into place. From an ROI standpoint, we’re able to use these vehicles that exist now to determine if it fits within our purpose; then you look at what it would cost to reach 4 million people with traditional communication versus what it costs for me to hit send and reach 4 million people.

We’ve been blessed with 11 consecutive quarters of same-store sales increases, and that happens because of connections at the shop and engaging people the way they want to be engaged. The brand was built on word-of-mouth marketing, and now instead of one person telling one person, we can tell 100,000 or 4 million at the same time.

How do you determine which investments make sense?

You start by prioritizing the things you need to do, but in a lot of ways the options are different. If the cost of the medium is less, then you have more flexibility in what you can do. Previously, the cost of purchasing radio or TV was a major factor. In some ways, you can spend more time working on the (content) of the piece than on the medium expense.

On the flip side, it becomes more hands-on. The idea of planning has changed. It used to be like when you have to take a trip from North Carolina to San Francisco, you’d map it out, say here’s the route we’ll take and here’s what time we’ll get there. Today, it’s like you’re going to drive from North Carolina toward California. Along the way, you’ll be looking at all the things that can enhance the trip, whether it’s the world’s largest ball of string or some guy on a bench who would be interesting to talk to. You’re heading the same way, but you have the ability to course correct.