Once you’ve encountered this exquisite life’s experience masquerading as a donut, you don’t forget. And look forward to your next first taste.
So what’s up with the erratic market performance of this iconic American brand? Sure, management stumbled a few years back and had to retrench. Sure, the shrill voices of the sugar police rose against them – not to mention the carb patrol and the trans-fat fighters. The Great Recession also hurt the company (stand in line). But here’s what truly ails Krispy Kreme:
They’ve lost the threads of their brand story.
Krispy Kreme used to have it made. People loved the delectable treat with the power to steal their hearts, and the Winston-Salem, North Carolina company was the rising star of donut retailers with a share of mind that outdistanced even its much bigger rival, Dunkin’ Donuts. Up until about ten years ago, they rode a wave of popularity that bordered on cultishness. Entering the 21st century, it looked like Krispy Kreme could do no wrong. Its franchises were costly but promised a stellar return on investment and guaranteed an enviable place in America’s popular psyche (picture here the mythological Psyche, object of Cupid’s desire).
One new store in Washington State, where the mythical appeal of Krispy Kreme’s awful goodness had stirred up a willing crowd, was said to have grossed $454,000 in the first week. By comparison, the average McDonald’s at the time (around 2004) was generating approximately $1.5-million in sales annually. It wasn’t unusual for a new store to attract long lines of people patiently waiting to become Krispy Kreme customers. But not any more. Today’s new store openings have to promote “free donuts for a year” to attract a crowd that used to come unbidden.
The company seems to have gone a long way toward fixing their organizational and financial issues, despite the latent skepticism that dogs them on Wall Street. Much is reported about their stock price performance and management changes these days, but there’s little talk of Krispy Kreme the brand, the Pied Piper of donuts, whose products should be liberally passed around the mighty New York investment houses early every morning, accompanied by cups of Krispy Kreme’s excellent coffee. That would turn ‘em around! Even the stubbornest of sugar deniers among them would succumb quickly upon experiencing the first-time pleasure of each warm Krispy Kreme signature glazed donut (a hot Krispy Kreme is heavenly; a cold one is just different).
So is there magic still left in Krispy Kreme? As one who lives near their headquarters and has watched the company’s fortunes rise and fall for a long time, I hope so. The brand may still live in our hearts, but it’s up to Krispy Kreme to remind us from time to time -- to keep telling their story.
TakeAway: If you have a brand people love, treat it like the rare treasure it is, lest it tarnish and fade away.
Tags: Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts
Content © by Brian E. Faulkner
About Brian Faulkner:
Brian also is a five-time Emmy award winning Public Television writer and narrator of UNC-TV’s popular Our State magazine series, on the air since 2003.