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The Big Brand Theory: Dunkin Donuts and Its Community of Fans



ImageRight after World War II, William Rosenberg cashed in some war bonds, borrowed some money, and opened a food truck business.  He grew that entrepreneurial endeavor to over 140 catering trucks, and then opened a coffee and doughnut shop, later renamed "Dunkin' Donuts." That was the start of the franchise that has over 10,000 stores around the world, and serves about three million customers each day.

Jessica Gioglio, Social Media Manager at Dunkin Donuts, discusses with me some of the energy that emerges around the brand in social media, "We have this amazing fan community that really views Dunkin Donuts as a daily ritual. As a result of that, our mantra is that we don't own our social media channels; our fans do."


You might call Dunkin Donuts a love brand - one of those brands like Harley Davidson or Coca-Cola that has earned a strong loyalty from a larger portion of its customers. As a result, social media engagement around the brand's profiles is high.  Gioglio says that when she started with Dunkin Donuts over three ago, she was amazed at the quantity of interactions. "People love to talk about how Dunkin coffee keeps them going," she says, "what occasions they drink coffee to kind of give them a boost; whether its dealing with a case of the Mondays, or taking that great first bite out of a doughnut, then taking a picture of it to share it to their friend community."

This means that a large part of the job around the brand's social media is about social listening so that content can be crafted in a way that is inspired by how customers engage with the brand. Gioglio explains, "the magic is in the mix when it comes to talking about ourselves and our brand. We think of it as we want to be an all day, everyday part of our fans' lives in a way that makes sense and adds value."

A lot of that valuable content does point back to the store's products.  People really want to know about new menu items. And as some of those menu items are seasonal, they also want to know when they can get a favorite item.  An example that Gioglio provides refers to October, "you feel like a rock star the day you post the date that pumpkin is returning!"

Content Plans and Real Time

With central brand social media profiles and countless regional variations, it's important to have a well-maintained content calendar.  At the same time, in order for the brand's social posts to be as relevant as possible, it must roll with what Gioglio calls the serendipity of real time. She explains, "it's not abnormal for us to leave certain blocks in the content calendar. To make sure we're timely this week, we'll leave a little bit of it open for our agency to come up with ideas that are more real-time based on what might be trending, or what might be a popular conversation topic."

ImageThis might include the weather and sports. And of course, those big variables tend to be very particular to specific regions or cities.  It's a fine line for large brands: to speak from a central brand, and yet be specific to different audiences.

Gioglio says, "As marketers and social marketers, you always want to be the most relevant to your community: the right message to the right person at the right time. There's a way to do that in a very conversational kind of fun way on social media that doesn't feel like traditional marketing; and that's the beauty of what we've tried to actually advocate across the markets that represent Dunkin; is just really show the local flavor of your community and how they run on Dunkin."

Getting Visual

Gioglio, incidentally, co-authored along with Ekaterina Walter the book The Power of Visual Storytelling: How to Use Visuals, Videos, and Social Media to Market Your Brand. It's no wonder that Gioglio is bullish on the visual, "When you think about food, people eat with their eyes. A lot of what we do with our visual content strategy on Facebook and other channels like Instagram, Vine, and Twitter, is to be an all-day, everyday part of people's lives. Visuals are a great way to tell a story; they're a great way to get people to pause and interact. A great beautiful mouthwatering photo of a doughnut is going to spark your cravings and keep Dunkin top of mind."

Gioglio says that informal photographs are in line with the experience their customers are having with the brand. "They're stopping into Dunkins; snapping a picture of their coffee cup as they're getting into their car; tweeting it out; and then they're going on with their day. If we can replicate that behavior through our social channels I think that's a huge win for us."


Join The Conversation

  • Apr 29 Posted 3 years ago charurastogi5

    Nice story Dunkin Donuts. Now a days users like informal photographs in terms of video, banners, infographics and like to share the same with friends and social networks. Keep sharing your experience with us.

  • Apr 28 Posted 3 years ago Sean Reyes

    I noticed that their franchisee locations don't have any content or engagement on Facebook.  If Dunkin Donuts is about the fans, don't the fans deserve to connect with their local store ownership?  Local is where it's at - the stores, the customers, the revenue - why only a voice at the corporate level?  I can't "check into" the national brand FB page or talk about my local experience at my Dunkin Donuts.  I recognize it's a massive task to monitor the Facebook pages for 10,000 stores, but I also don't think you're really doing "social listening" when the brand decides where it's willing to listening.  A lot of us would have a lot of great things to say about our local DD if given the opportunity.  In Jessica's defense, DD is not the only brand restricting the local store's social media presence.  There's a real opportunity to connect with your customers and support your local franchisee owner's local marketing effort.  Great article.

  • Apr 28 Posted 3 years ago Glenn G

    Very cool story on how Dunkin Donuts started. I never thought of it as a daily ritual, but when explained it makes perfect sense. I find it awesome that it started off small and grew into what it is today.

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