WS helps Dunkin' Donuts find way to engage the public

Since 1998, Dunkin' Donuts has worked with Weber Shandwick to promote its outlets in the New York and Philadelphia markets.

Since 1998, Dunkin' Donuts has worked with Weber Shandwick to promote its outlets in the New York and Philadelphia markets.

The company has been working to maintain its success in the doughnut world against competitors like Krispy Kreme, as well as to position itself as a viable competitor to more upscale coffee shops like Starbucks. That duality of purpose prompted WS to build on the "perfect pair" idea. Coffee and a doughnut, for sure, but also ... love? When that light bulb went off, the agency decided to unveil a campaign that would give engaged couples the chance to live out a dream that many have contemplated in wishful moments, but few have ever had the temerity to actually pursue: a wedding at Dunkin' Donuts.

Strategy Such a fantastic opportunity could not be offered without consumer research to verify the demand. A survey of 1,500 people revealed that a scant 32% felt that most of the weddings they had been to were fun, and 73% would, as a release put it, "say 'I do' to doing something a little bit over-the-top if they were the ones getting married." The firm decided to make consumers put their money where their doughnut-holes are, so to speak, by using free media as the primary promoter of the campaign (what reporter could turn down an angle like that?) to spread the word to the public.

Tactics WS put together radio promotions in Philadelphia and New York to drum up participants and voters and drive them to the campaign's website, iwantmyweddingatdunkindonuts.com. They held a kickoff launch in November, with media drops at radio and TV stations all over the target markets and a special incentive for coverage. "We came up with the creative idea of making doughnut wedding cakes to deliver to media," says Antonio Rivera, SAE at WS, "just to get the ball rolling on the whole program and get them interested."

Results The campaign generated hundreds of entries of engaged couples anxious to exchange vows while surrounded by deep fryers and coffee machines. They were narrowed down to six finalists, whose pictures and "outrageous (but true) proposal stories" were posted online. The public was allowed to vote for the first two weeks of January, and 25,000 people took the time. New York and Philadelphia papers and broadcast outlets covered the ongoing story. One couple was selected in each market for the weddings, which were held early this month at Dunkin' Donuts locations in each city. "[We pitched] to have cameras, papers, and editors attend the actual wedding," Rivera says. The lucky couples each got a wedding package valued at more than $20,000, including a honeymoon trip to the Bahamas. Celebrity wedding planner David Beahm served as a "consultant," but much of the wedding planning was done by the PR team. Louise McCulloch, manager of global communications for Dunkin' Donuts, says that she had to consider factors like location and the parking-lot size of various outlets to accommodate the event, but that all of the work was well worth it. "That just tells you what a fun brand it is that people would say, 'Yes, I want to do my wedding there,'" she says.

Future While there are no plans for another wedding-related stunt, WS' New York office will continue to handle Dunkin Donuts' PR needs in the mid-Atlantic region. "We have ongoing media outreach, educational programs, community-based programs, everything," says McCulloch. "It runs the whole gamut." But as artificial story angles go, the wedding idea is hard to beat. "It's pretty wacky," says River. Watch for frosted, jelly-filled wedding rings coming soon to a store near you.

PR team: Dunkin' Donuts (Canton, MA) and Weber Shandwick (New York) Campaign: I Want My Wedding at Dunkin' Donuts Time frame: August 2004 to February 2005 Budget: About $50,000

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