Krispy Kreme, the doughnut chain that started out in the US 75 years ago, launched its first store in India on Saturday. While doughnuts are not new to the country, Krispy Kreme’s entry-strategy was focused on constant engagement using the social media.
Since December, the doughnut company has generated enough attention from potential consumers to grow their Facebook likes from about 3,000 to more than 21,000. The pre-launch activities were at malls giving away free boxes of doughnuts.
I tracked their online buzz out of curiosity as a consumer since I had tasted their product a few years ago. I have to admit, my engagement with the brand has been only one doughnut, and that was enough to get me hooked.
I tried to resist any form of engagement with the brand, but by their fourth mall outing, the glutton in me caved. I got a friend of mine to go to Oasis Mall and try to get me a box. By the time she got there, she says, “The mall was packed with people. I didn’t know they were so popular.”
Truthfully, not many people know the brand, but Oasis Mall was its fourth or fifth attempt to get people to sample the product so something had changed in the brand perception by then.
The brand benefited from the fact that many people are well travelled and those who knew the brand spread the word. The first few times they gave away doughnuts, they got only those loyal customers, but by their visit to the fourth or fifth mall, the awareness grew. People were on to them through the leads they gave out on Facebook, saying where there were headed. With a day’s notice, people drove across the city for their free doughnuts.
Since their target audience was clearly youngsters, Krispy Kreme even went to popular schools in Bangalore like St Joseph’s Boys High School and gave away free doughnuts. “I told my dad they were launching, and made him come for their launch to get some,” says Samuel Shah, a bright 12-year-old boy. His mother told me that he woke them up at 5 am just to ensure he had a chance at winning the prize for being the first customer: a year’s supply of free doughnuts.
The offer coupled with the free product sampling across the city actually got people to sleep outside their store; 200 people were waiting for their turn at a box of doughnuts.
Maria Prescilla Sabio, 41, says, “We know of them from the Phillipines and wanted to try them out.” She stood in line with her three children for more than an hour.
The brand has enjoyed a good start, and the challenge will be to keep customers coming in after being treated to a number of freebies. Their innovative marketing keeps them in the news too.
Renuka Jagtiani, Vice-chairperson, The Landmark Group, who are franchisees of the brand in South and West India through Citymax Hotels Pvt Ltd, says, “This has been a good learning for us. How to get people charged and out on a Saturday morning. Of course, not everything we sell is doughnuts.”
Jagtiani has a lot of reasons to smile especially since the overall group is doing well in India, and is poised to grow to $1 billion by 2014. However, the doughnut space did seem to be a niche for a group, but Jagtiani differs and says, “It is not a niche brand. India is about young people and this is a brand for young people.”
It’s interesting to see its launch in India now, especially since they were portrayed as one the brands that may shut shop during the 2008 recession. (Here’s just one of the articles that thought the brand would close.)
Jeff Welch, President, Krispy Kreme International, says, “Our CEO has framed the article that said we would shut down as inspiration in his office. We’re not shutting down. We were 200 stores then , and we are 700 stores now.”
Welch said this during the press conference, where the press, like consumers, was treated to boxes of doughnuts to sample. So our team got to sample the glazed doughnut, the one they are most famous for, and an assorted mix of their other doughnuts.
While I was just glad I could purchase these doughnuts in Bangalore instead of asking relatives to bring a box, my colleague, who is a health freak, pointed out that one doughnut had 200 calories and approximately 12 grams of fat.
As much as I like the product, I have to admit, my colleague’s point buzzes in my ear each time I think of trying one now. The interesting thing now will be to see if the store can maintain the buzz around its launch.