Amazing Glaze at Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme’s Global Creative Director Tim Sabo dishes on the corporation’s marketing and doughnut domination strategy.
May 10, 2013

“We are smarter and cheaper than other corporations,” says Tim Sabo, global creative director at Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation, on how Krispy Kreme is continuing its legacy through creative marketing endeavors in social media, apps, packaging and design—and all on a low budget. He spoke last month at a Circles Meetup in Dallas about the company’s history and how its innovative marketing plan is Krispy Kreme’s fuel for expansion.

Since 1937, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Krispy Kreme has been preparing its classic Original Glazed Doughnut. In recent years, it has been expanding internationally, a strong aspect of the business’s growth—it opened its first international store in Canada in 2001.

“Our international growth has been robust,” Sabo says.

You can now find Krispy Kreme in more than 650 stores in 21 countries, including Russia, India and China.

Krispy Kreme’s mission statement—“to touch and enhance lives through the joy that is Krispy Kreme” –draws in customers globally. That joy, says Sabo, is enhanced by the in-store experience.

“It’s not just about the doughnuts, but actually going to Krispy Kreme. It’s all about the experience.”

Krispy Kreme’s iconic staples set it apart from other doughnut franchises, like the paper busboy hats decorated with the Krispy Kreme “coat of arms” and the Doughnut Theater, the transparent bakery with conveyer belts moving fresh doughnuts through the glazing process. Each store also has green thatched roofs, matching “K’s,” and the “HOT NOW” neon signs in front of each shop that go ablaze when fresh-off-the-belt doughnuts are ready to be eaten.

The “HOT NOW” sign has also been a segue for Krispy Kreme in the technology realm. Because of the sign’s sizzling universal recognition, Krispy Kreme created the Hot Light App in 2011, which alerts loyal fans when that beacon of baked goods lights up. Now its popularity is sparking a move into the international markets.

“No other idea can eclipse this. It has staying power,” Sabo says.

While Krispy Kreme relies on nostalgia to draw in crowds, its social-media-driven marketing model and loyal fans inspire Krispy Kreme to stay innovative, always moving forward.

All of Krispy Kreme’s marketing campaigns are conceived in-house, keeping costs low and communication efficient between designers and business executives. Krispy Kreme does not use any paid media, such as print ads. Their marketing is spread through social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

“We rely solely on our cult following to get an audience,” Sabo says.

On the creative side, Krispy Kreme continues to make campaigns for its products that resonate with consumers. Take the doughnut box itself. By incorporating QR codes in snowflakes during Christmas to lead customers to “Dozen Days of Doughnuts,” and printing cutout puppets during Halloween to make “Krispy Skremes,” it seems the doughnut people constantly have a new campaign in the works to promote new products.

On the same note, the international branches have presented a new challenge to readjust and learn marketing strategies for different cultures.

“In Dubai, we cannot show any faces or hands of women,” Sabo says. (Check out this ad in India featuring cricket players and this ad from Krispy Kreme Middle East.)

And the marketing must coincide with how the doughnuts are eaten in each country.

“In the Far East, doughnuts are eaten in the afternoon, not the morning. They also like the doughnuts less sweet,” says Sabo.

In the Philippines, they have introduced Kruffins, a pull-apart type muffin. In Puerto Rico, they are currently in a Fiesta de Caramelo.

Sabo continues to create unique marketing concepts for a global market, a market that requires constant innovation. But, luckily, he says, one thing rings true for every consumer culture: “Joy sells in all markets.”

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