I would disagree with the idea that Krispy Kreme don’t use any marketing. They may not go for in-your-face TV adverts every fifteen minutes, like Dunkin’ Donuts, but they have marketed themselves quite well. Their marketing tactics are not only a matter of sending free doughnuts to celebrities, but of designing their stores and policies in a manner that sucks customers in and keeps them coming back. Their product tastes pretty good, too, but that isn’t what makes Krispy Kreme such a wild success story.
Aside from paying attention to quality, the chain does three things that make them stand out from the crowd. First of all, there is the now famous “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign. This is one of the best marketing strategies I’ve ever seen. Right from the highway, you can see that the doughnuts are hot, fresh and delicious. Immediately you begin to believe that Dunkin’ Donuts made their doughnuts early this morning, if not yesterday or the week before. Cars get pulled off the street like magnetized iron shavings when this sign lights up.
And as soon as the Hot Doughnuts sign has done its work, you can actually see the doughnuts cooking! In the larger stores at least, the conveyer belt on which the Krispies fry is displayed behind a glass wall, and you can watch hundreds of doughnuts advancing like Roman legions through the entire cooking process.
You might think this would be like watching paint dry, but it’s fascinating. The whole transformation from skinny, pale, geek-like ring of uncooked dough to full-bodied, evenly tanned beach-volleyball-playing delicacy takes about five minutes and is time well spent, especially if you have small children with you. More importantly for Krispy Kreme, it reminds you that your doughnut is as fresh as fresh gets. Any fresher than this and it would be flour. That’s what I want when I buy a doughnut!
But the clever marketing doesn’t end there. Because if the employees see you watching the doughnuts cooking, they will actually give you one or three to taste. FOR FREE, and before you’ve bought anything. Not just one for the cute little girl, either, but for the adults as well. The first time I saw this, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. This is a fast-food joint, fer godsake. If Burger King ever gave me a serving of fries while I was still standing in line, without requiring me to purchase anything, I would probably pinch my arm to wake myself up.
The genius of this free sample policy cannot be overstated. For one thing, it displays confidence. The chain is so sure that you will like the one doughnut and buy an additional dozen, they are willing to take the slim chance that you will just take the freebie and walk out. From what I’ve seen, nobody ever walks out. They might if the doughnuts were crap, but as I said before, they’re actually fairly good.
In addition, the free sample actually makes people buy more than they wanted to. When you give something to someone, with no visible strings attached, they automatically feel like they owe you something. You may not believe that this works. You may feel like you are too intelligent to fall for such a stupid trick. But it does, and you aren’t.
Finally, it makes Krispy Kreme seem like nice guys. KK are buying themselves an image of friendly neighbourhood bakers, for the infinitesimal price of one free doughnut per customer. Unless they totally mess things up, this friendly image will probably last long after they stop giving away freebies, ensuring that Krispy Kreme have a vast market of dedicated consumers that will stay loyal for the better part of their lives.
When people honestly believe that a company as successful as Krispy Kreme has succeeded without any marketing, the marketers have done a good job.