Doughnut Lose Customers: Krispy Kreme Pandemic PR

Ashleigh Panton, dressed in graduate robes and a face mask, is posing with a box of doughnuts outside of her local Krispy Kreme in Issaquah, Washington, on May 19, 2020.

Ashleigh Panton, posing for a photo outside of her local Krispy Kreme shop, is one of the thousands of graduates around the nation who took advantage of the Krispy Kreme Grad Dozen offer. (Photo- Ashleigh Panton)

What drives thousands of graduates, including high school senior Ashleigh Panton, to voluntarily trade the comfort of home for drive-through traffic during quarantine? The Krispy Kreme Grad Dozen.

On May 19, 2020, Krispy Kreme gifted the “Grad Dozen” to high school and college graduates when they visited with their cap and gown or other senior identification.

Krispy Kreme formed a social media campaign to celebrate the achievement of graduates. Their public relations efforts demonstrate three sprinkles of wisdom that public relations students should utilize in their summer internships as organizations navigate this pandemic.

Serve a demographic in need

Optimistic plans for college now have 44% of high school grads rubbing their heads wondering how they will get necessary funds. Panton observes that, “very few people are acknowledging how hard this is, especially for seniors.”

Panton is frustrated with remote learning and argues that, “administrators are not meeting their promise to make graduation special. It is a slap in the face.” On the other hand, Krispy Kreme’s actions acknowledged the difficult situation for graduates.

Public relations students should follow Krispy Kreme’s lead of identifying a timely cause and marketing a special deal to a demographic in need.

Deliver a drool-worthy offering

Cell phone social media usage jumped 5% during pandemic-related closures. Krispy Kreme leveraged this trend by launching their graduate dozen on social media. The Grad Dozen is a special assorted box featuring flavors of strawberry, cake batter and chocolate with vibrant colored icing. These doughnuts display the numerals “2020” to honor graduates.

Panton, who posted the Grad Dozen on her Instagram account, explains the appeal of this photo opportunity.

“If I can’t even wear my cap and gown on a stage then I might as well wear them in a Krispy Kreme parking lot! Where else am I going to wear them?”

Just as Krispy Kreme enabled graduates to display their educational accomplishment and earn a sweet treat, all public relations students need to deliver a perfect photo moment for a successful social media campaign.

Doughnut forget to tag

Krispy Kreme’s initial post about the graduate dozen prompted thousands of loving friends to tag the graduates in their lives. On the day of the promotion, Krispy Kreme’s Instagram comments were 800% higher than average, and this appetizing offer was the #27 trending topic on Twitter.

Interns can impact their organization by asking followers to simply tag their friends so the generosity can be shared. When Krispy Kreme addressed graduates’ need to celebrate, drive-through traffic was suddenly pleasant, as it presented the only graduate event that students could attend.

By serving a demographic in need, delivering a photo-worthy experience and encouraging followers to tag their friends, any public relations student can impress their employer and maintain relevancy with customers during the pandemic. After all, everyone enjoys the taste of generosity and doughnuts. 


Emily Walker is a junior in the public relations program at Brigham Young University. She has written blog content for the Mutual App and Sprout Kids Furniture. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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