CMO Q&A: Doughnut maker Krispy Kreme's Dwayne Chambers on strategies, growth

Krispy Kreme's chief marketing and innovation officer speaks to Lindsay Stein about the brand's global expansion plans and its association with the US military.

Krispy Kreme chief marketing and innovation officer Dwayne Chambers
Krispy Kreme chief marketing and innovation officer Dwayne Chambers

How do you structure marketing and communications at Krispy Kreme?
Our marketing department consists of all our brand work, social media, corporate communications, and PR, and what would be considered advertising. Research and development also falls within marketing, both for our products, as well as our equipment. We manufacture all our proprietary equipment, so the engineering and development of that falls within marketing.

Do you use a lot of real-time efforts in your social media strategy?
We monitor everything on a moment-by-moment basis for many reasons, but primarily because social media is the communications vehicle to our guests.

We don’t do any traditional advertising, so everything we do outside of local shop marketing is through social media and digital. We watch social 24/7 and have real-time communications and conversations with guests and organizations through promotions or things going on in their lives.

Are there any advancements coming on Krispy Kreme’s Hot Light app?
We are evolving the app to add a loyalty program. We’ve tested it in several markets and will roll it out this year throughout the US. You will be able to earn points toward getting doughnuts and coffee. It will also allow you to do store value and e-gifting since we’re shareable as a brand.

What was Krispy Kreme’s pop-up experience contest about this summer?
Probably one of our biggest complaints is, "There’s not a Krispy Kreme near me." We get that a lot on social.

So in celebration of our 78th birthday in July, we thought the pop-up experience would be a fun way to do something and get the brand out to people. Fans were vying for an inflatable pop-up shop and for the winner, we sent someone out to make them doughnuts, including 6,000 free original glazed.

[Participants had to explain why their town deserved the shop on Twitter by posting a photo, video, or message with the hashtag #WinKrispyKreme. Wichita Falls, Texas, won the competition and received a pop-up shop on August 15. Chambers and CEO Tony Thompson traveled on the Krispy Kreme cruiser – a 1960s branded bus – and made stops in cities including Memphis, Tennessee, and Little Rock, Arkansas.] 

Tell me about the brand’s efforts to bring doughnuts to military bases in Europe.
We’ve been doing things with the military for decades. National Doughnut Day started as a military program with the Salvation Army, giving doughnuts to soldiers coming back from the war, so there’s been a long connection with the armed forces.

It’s interesting, too, because over the years we’ve had a lot of people who have tried to package up and send Krispy Kremes to their loves ones stationed abroad as that little bit of home. Many times we’ve been asked to bring doughnuts out to the base or the airports when soldiers are coming home.

The military has also been selling doughnuts on base on a member basis for some time. We’ve been working with the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, the military organization that handles food and production, and we signed a deal in Germany in June with the base there because it’s a massive production point. The service will be producing and distributing Krispy Kremes daily to troops and their families in Germany, Greece, Italy, Belgium, and the UK, among others.

They are purchasing our equipment and our proprietary mixes so they will be a franchisee of ours. We’re very excited as they have gotten a tremendous response from service people and their families because when you are serving overseas, the ability to have little bits of home means a lot.

Are you looking to expand in any regions around the world?
We will increase our systemwide unit count by 120 shops or so this year worldwide. We have more than 1,000 in 24 countries. We have 10 stores scheduled to open in Cambodia, 12 in Guatemala, and more than 30 in South Africa. We’ve recently announced 19 new shops in Arkansas, Montana, Illinois, and Kentucky, and more expansion in California.

We’re continuing to grow in the US and throughout the world and in places some people wouldn’t expect, such as Cambodia. It isn’t necessarily high on people’s lists when they’re expanding, so we’re excited to be able to go into countries like that and not only bring them doughnuts, but also help them with economic development.

Can you give an example of one of your recent marketing challenges?
The biggest challenge for us is always making sure we focus on what we do well. Today, it is so tempting in business to expand and take on other things that maybe you don’t do well. We’ve really tried to stay focused on   doughnuts and coffee. We just introduced frozen lattes this past spring and it has gone well, so that’s a great opportunity for us.

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