Dunkin’ for Customer Engagement and the Social Media Challenges of a Branded Franchise

Dunkin’ Donuts has been on a mission to increase customer engagement. Part of this effort  includes new product introductions, such as the recent national rollout of the Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich. The sandwich was supposedly created as a response to Dunkin’ Donuts  guests’ tastes. In addition, the company announced plans today to spruce up stores that might currently be described as a “pit stop” with calm earth tone decor and jazz music.

According to  Dunkin’ Donuts executive Chef Stan Frankenthaler, when testing the breakfast sandwich, “The social media response was massive and immediate. This was by far our biggest viral hit,” he said. “Within days of the test, people were sending pictures, tweeting ‘look what I got!’ or ‘this is so wrong!’ and it was just incredible. By overwhelming popular vote, it had to stay.”

Researching the conversations about Dunkin Donuts using the iTrend data platform and its analytics capabilities, Dunkin’ Donuts claims are confirmed. The newly released Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich did indeed garner quite a bit of attention on social media, but the hashtag word cloud shows the conversation also includes references to Starbucks. Not ideal when you are launching a product, but likely inevitable and certainly includes valuable insights as to whether those comparisons are relevant and positive or neutral. These conversations can also serve as an excellent competitive analysis tool, greatly reducing the amount of time and resources required to perform this analysis via other methods.

DD hashtag

According to  Kevin Vine, interactive marketing manager at Dunkin’ Brands, Dunkin’ Donuts started using social media with the creation of its Facebook brand page and Twitter account in late 2008. Dunkin’ Donuts currently has almost 260,000 followers on Twitter and  9,754,256 likes on Facebook. In comparison, Starbucks, one of the most successful brands using social media, has a vast number of online fans. Starbucks’s many sites have become an important way to advertise daily and, occasionally, drive huge numbers of customers into stores. Starbucks is the  fifth-largest brand on Facebook, with 34 million fans, trailing only Coca-Cola, Disney, Red Bull and Converse, according to SocialBakers.com. Starbucks executives estimate through Facebook fans and their friends alone, they have access to nearly 1 billion people — a seventh of the world’s population. On Twitter, Starbucks has  3.6 million followers ranking it fourth, behind Samsung Mobile, iTunes Music and NASA. However, there is more to media than followers. Engagement is key.

Starbucks is famous for its many online promotions and contests, but it does not franchise its operations, so it controls all aspects of its business and its guests’ experiences – whether positive or negative. Franchised businesses may face additional challenges when responding to complaints and concerns via social media channels. For example, a complaint about a pothole in a parking lot could be the result of any number of situations – many of which are completely unrelated to the business itself – but the guest complaint should still receive a response – and hopefully action.

However, even negative customer engagement can have a positive effect. Kudos to Dunkin’ Donuts for rewarding excellent employee behavior when this 18-year-old Dunkin’ Donuts employee endured the ranting of a very rude customer. The customer’s social media use, by the way, is an example of social media at its worst. The offensive customer’s video will likely result in the opposite of her desired outcome as the viral video is generating extremely positive comments about Dunkin’ Donuts – and as evidenced by the word cloud search and the timeline analysis, it’s getting quite a bit of attention.

DD wordcloud

The timeline indicates the sandwich product launch resulted in a huge increase in social media activity, but the activity observed as a result of the video, was also significant, favorable and not created by the corporation.

DD timeline

Although Dunkin Donuts has fewer followers than Starbucks, it has been working diligently in its responsiveness to Tweets as shown below. The intensity of the blue is weighted so that the darkest hue indicates the most number of replies via Twitter.

DD influencers

To summarize, Dunkin’ Donuts appears to be well on its way to offering its guests what they want in product offerings as well as a positive experience in its stores and online.

Big data analytics enthusiast.

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