Before I went on my digression about Steve Jobs and his untimely passing, I was writing a series of entries featuring Dunkin’ Donuts and their innovative use of e-marketing promotions. Let’s look at some of the lessons we can learn from this company’s use of social media.
Branding is changing in some fundamental ways: Brands no longer shape people’s ideas. The days when companies could tell end users what to believe through creative TV ads are long gone. Increasingly, modern consumers are influenced by the comments of Facebook friends, by blogs or by online chatter, far more than by any messages they might be hearing from companies.
More and more today, marketers will be forced to surrender their brands to an increasingly powerful community of consumers. While this loss of control of the brand message can be a scary thought for marketers, enlisting the community of consumers and tapping into their energy can produce enormous benefits at relatively low cost.
Dunkin’ Donuts is an outstanding example of a company that engages its brand community at very low cost. They seem to be fully comfortable surrendering their brand message to their clients, even relishing the dynamic where their highly engaged fans speak for them.
Today, branding is co-creation: What is a brand’s identity? From the perspective of a company, our brand used to be what we told people it was. Through our corporate communication, we played the dominant role in shaping people’s opinions about our products. Today, a brand is what the community decides it is. In the Internet age, companies have lost much of their ability to mould customer perceptions. As such, they must accept that branding today has become – at best – an interactive co-creation with a user community.
If your product and service are excellent, give the community a voice and let them tell their stories about you. This is exactly what Dunkin’ Donuts does on its Facebook page. By asking users to send photos and tell their stories, the company stimulates the co-creation process and gets valuable user-generated content.
Seek to turn the members of the community into heroes. In the days of broadcast communication, the brand was the hero, and we shouted our messages to the world. In the age of e-marketing and brand co-creation, we should want members of the community to feel like the heroes.
This is what the most successful companies are learning to do. If there is a hero in their messages, it is no longer the product. The heroes are the users of the product who tell their stories of how they use the product, and how it makes them feel. These consumers are the ones who fuel the passion of the brand.
By posting photos of their fans, and letting these fans tell their stories, and by naming their “Fan of the Week”, Dunkin’ Donuts is turning its fans into heroes. These “heroes” then spread the word about Dunkin’, in the form of updates to their own “tribes”.
Create interesting little moments that let your fans engage, and they will repay you with free or low-cost advertising. When Dunkin Donuts offered an Internet discount coupon to all customers who submitted photos of themselves drinking iced coffee in winter, the results were impressive. One hundred forty entries generated nearly 4 million product plugs through posts and status updates on the social sites. Such online initiatives help spread a positive image of the company. According to the Financial Times, people are 50% more likely to have heard good things about Dunkin than about its major competitor, Starbucks.
Give them a sense of belonging and participation: One inexpensive way that companies can turn fans into advocates is by allowing them to participate in product conception and creation. What is the effect when Domino’s Pizza asks customers to tweet their impressions and criticism of the latest recipe, or when Dunkin Donuts runs their annual online “create the next donut” contest? Those who participate become advocates!
When we engage users in these contests or product creation efforts, they will spread the word about us. Since they want to tell their “tribe” what they have been up to, they tweet it or post it on social media pages in their status updates. Each time people choose to share in these ways creates a chance for the company to garner new fans. And, since Dunkin’s “next donut” contest drew nearly 300,000 entries in 2010, the online word-of-mouth effect was indeed striking.