Like most in the creative and digital industries I’ve been intrigued over recent months and years with the often diverse activity of some of the world’s leading consumer brands and how they (with the help of their creative agency) harness the power of social media and integrate it with their strategic brand communications and/or advertising campaigns. Generally, it’s the same old, run of the mill campaigns that usually end with, “Just to confirm, we’re wonderful… now go find us on Facebook” …etc etc.

However, one particular brand that is famous on both sides of the pond and beyond for heart-stopping Doughnuts has grabbed my attention recently by doing something completely different to other consumer brands in social media – much, much less.

As a brand Krispy Kreme have been helping American Cops and other fans of their indulgent Doughnuts get fatter for over 75-years now. And despite their products more or less remaining the same throughout their history you would be forgiven for thinking they wouldn’t be at the forefront of social media activity. However, when you look closely, it couldn’t be further from the truth – but only up until recently that is. As a brand I believe they are now one of the thought-leaders within social media.

In fact, their whole approach in terms of official marketing communications is now ‘less is more’. Dwayne Chambers, their new Chief Marketing Officer is the driving force behind the concept of social media-driven word-of mouth-marketing and employs an almost total hands-off approach. Krispy Kreme are now letting the fans control the brand’s communications. At a recent advertising conference in the USA he elaborated on their ethos by saying, “I don’t own the brand… and the idea that I ever owned the brand is really kind of stupid. The more we try and control it, the less control we really have.”

What’s really interesting is that apparently the legal eagles within Krispy Kreme are going nuts at the lack of control they now have over their trademark. Before this new approach was adopted they were ultra-controlling in terms of what was said about it, where it was said and by whom. They weren’t just mere Logo Police, no, no… they were the Logo Gestapo. Chambers went so far as to say that 5-years ago their legal department would send cease-and-desist letters to “little old ladies crocheting Krispy Kreme logos on pot-holders”.

But now, the company takes a back seat and watches gleefully as dedicated fans of the brand create their own websites, fan pages and crocheted pot-holders dedicated to their beloved doughnuts. What I really like about this is that the ‘official’ marketing philosophy is to “allow the brand to live and let it live in those people’s hearts and minds”

Although he hasn’t been in his role long Chambers has made sweeping changes throughout his department. Before he arrived the company had 17 creative agencies and consultants… which was one for each Krispy Kreme marketeer. Today, his department has one key branding agency and a couple of ‘boutique’ design agencies that work on smaller projects. This step-change has brought ‘more focus’ to all their activities. Chambers added, “With limited budgets, everything has to work together, and it’s got to be working together really, really well or you start losing effectiveness.”

Personally, I couldn’t agree more with his approach to social media and a more focused approach to their official brand communications.

Krispy Kreme is what I would call a ‘consumer cult brand’. This cult status ensures that in the digital sphere that is social media the brand really can sit back, spend less and enjoy watching its loyal and sometimes fanatical customers create all the entertaining and engaging content that is of interest to them – the very same people that buy their products. Content for the fans, by the fans!
This is an enviable position to be in for any consumer brand. The fact that Krispy Kreme developed and embraces this approach speaks volumes for them as a modern brand (with I assume a much reduced legal team!).

Which got me thinking… who are the other ‘cult’ consumer brands out there that should stop listening to their executives and legal department and truly embrace the ‘less control, more focus’ approach?

The end

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