Dunkin’ Says CYA, but Donuts Still Matter for Brands

Heather Valle, Communications Specialist


The world watched anxiously last month as Dunkin’ officially broke up with its longtime partner, Donut. For some, the move was a real head-scratcher. Others thought it was about time.

Even as the ensuing branding debate took over my Twitter feed, I was stuck on the donuts. America’s favorite sweet treat has been in vogue the past few years, and brands of all types want in on the conversation. Never is that more true than on National Donut Day, when marketers profess their love of the donut to boost engagement on social channels (Exhibit A below).


It’s a smart tactic. Who cares if you’re selling baked goods or jumpsuits – take advantage of what’s trending with the consumer! How do you do that well if you’re not a donut shop? Get creative and pay attention to analytics.


How to do donuts

You don’t need to be a bakery to capitalize on a food frenzy.  A year ago, Google used the donut hype to promote the launch of Google Home Mini. Branded as the “donut-sized, superhero-powered” home device, Google introduced a series of pop-up donut shops across the country to market the product – tapping into not just its usual tech audiences, but an audience of influential foodies as well.

How could your brand do something similar? Let’s count the ways.

  1. Major vehicle brand? As video viewing time on Facebook and Instagram are on the rise, share a Facebook Live video of a professional driver doing donut stunts. (Advise viewers not to try this at home, but instead view safely while consuming a half dozen round ones.)
  2. Non-profit? Partner with a popular donut brand to donate a portion of sales to your cause. (Once a campaign is established, be sure to leverage Facebook’s Donate Now)
  3. Web-based family tree service? Stir up some headlines with a new LinkedIn job posting for a “donut genealogist” – candidates must trace the lineage of the original World War I “Donut Lassies.” The possibilities are endless!


Optimizing for sweet success

Let’s pretend again that you’ve committed to using donuts in a campaign. Which spelling should you go with – donut or doughnut? DONUT ask your pod mate. Listen to what the data is telling you.

On Google Trends, a comparison of the search performance of “doughnut” versus “donut” from 2014-2016 reveals that significantly more users search for the term “donut.”  The same goes for social media. As of March 2018, #donuts has more than 5 million Instagram hits whereas #doughnuts has just over 800,000 hits.

So you should definitely go with “donut,” right? Actually, it depends. Keep digging into the data and you’ll find the research shows the average email open rate for “donut” is slightly lower (9.73 percent) than that of “doughnut” (10.82 percent).

Instead, tailor your content for each channel. If you are primarily concerned with SEO, “donut” is the obvious choice. If you’re sending out emails, go with “doughnut.” If you’re posting to social, maximize engagement by tagging both.


Baking up a plan: when to celebrate

Once you have your campaign idea and have optimized for each channel, carefully consider when to post. National Donut Day actually occurs twice a year, first in June and later in November. So which should your brand get out in front of?

Again, take a look at the data. Google Trends shows significantly more traffic around the holiday in June than in November, so if you have to choose, this is the time to go all out. You can always repurpose the campaign in November, however. When the content is already created, additional promotion is low hanging fruit so you may as well take advantage.


Of course, not every brand will run a donut-based campaign, but every marketer should be on the lookout for creative ways to engage their audience. Remember, though, creativity is just one part of a campaign’s success. To really make a lasting impact, pay attention to the details and optimize based on any data that’s available.