The Power of Branding - Krispy Kreme Protest Edition

Nadaline Webster,

It is the dream of every marketer to create an irresistible hunger for their brand amongst their consumer base. For their brand to be instantly recognisable and desirable in a veritable sea of brands and consumer options. For their customers to queue all night to be amongst the first to experience new products. And for some marketers, this is no longer a dream. It is a reality.

Ireland is a strange and magically wonderful country. The land of saints and scholars has long been renowned for it’s education, (often dark) sense of fun and fondness for a drop of the black stuff. We are in general a level-headed people who don’t take ourselves or anyone else too seriously. We leave protesting the world and ‘getting het up’ to others. Since establishing our independence over a hundred years ago, the only thing that stirred the masses into action were proposed water charges. Then Krispy Kreme came to town and our cultural identity was forever altered. It came as a shock to many.

Ireland has long been home to doughnuts of many kinds and brands. We are not doughnut novices, far from it. But a special kind of excitement erupted when the news came that Blanchardstown, Co Dublin was to play host to a Krispy Kreme 24 hour drive-thru megastore. There were overnight queues in advance of the launch and when it opened, there was no lessening in the demand for delicious, delicious doughnuts. It was hailed as a riotous success - phrasing that was to prove prophetically ominous.

Very quickly, problems began to emerge. The drive-thru seemed permanently packed with waiting times counted in hours, clogging up traffic in the area. Those stuck waiting in the everlasting queue grew impatient and honked their horns regularly, day and night. Local residents were in tears due to lack of sleep and disruption to their lives. It is often said that when love becomes obsessive, it is unhealthy and dangerous and so it proved to be true for many.

In fairness to Krispy Kreme, they acted quickly to alleviate the problems experienced by their neighbours and duly announced that they would adapt their business model with opening hours of 6 am to 11:30 pm. While I’m sure this news was gratefully received by local residents, it was somewhat incendiary to the sugar-crazed masses anticipating the next sweet fix. Reports emerged of protests, people shouting out of passing cars “Bring back our 24 hour doughnuts”. It was pointed out by many that the people protesting were doing so within the shiny new opening hours and could have bought as many doughnuts as they liked, saving some for later that night if necessary.

Krispy Kreme held firm and eventually the population moved through the 5 stages of loss. The final stages of ‘acceptance’ were punctuated periodically with muffled, sad cries of “You can take our lives but you’ll never take our doughnuts”. They learned to purchase doughnuts within the tiny 17 and a half hour window that was left to them. The residents of Blanchardstown got some sleep and all was well again in the kingdom.

So how was this miracle of marketing achieved?

No one really knows. While it was absolutely anticipated that the arrival of the Krispy Kreme would be popular, no one predicted that the nation (or a sizeable local portion of it at least) would lose all sense of rationality. Happy, doughnut consumption was forecast but ‘doughnut zombie apocalypse’ was completely unforeseen.

However, it does serve as a beacon of hope to brand owners and marketers everywhere. It’s entirely possible to create a brand that can whip people into a frenzy even in a country where you have never done business before. Although being careful what you wish for is perhaps an additional moral perspective to the story. Krispy Kreme had to change their business model to cope with the love and time will tell whether this kind of red-hot, verging on stalker love can stand the test of time.

There is an additional benefit for Krispy Kreme though. If they had any concerns whatsoever about creeping genericide in the future, those have now been assuaged - at least for the foreseeable future. Should a claim be made that ‘Krispy Kreme’ is becoming synonymous with doughnuts of every kind they can simply point to the Irish media reports and reply “Clearly the Irish know the difference anyway!”

While imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery, it’s a significant impediment in the business world. Brands that successfully build a strong consumer following will likely experience others attempting to usurp their popularity. Despite this, research shows that a clear majority of trademark owners don’t monitor most of their brands for infringement. It is true that historically, monitoring costs were overwhelmingly high in terms of labour, time and budget but legal technology is changing that. Check out affordable and efficient watching tools here.

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