ANA Annual Meeting

How Krispy Kreme is Embracing Hands-Off Approach

Dwayne Chambers on How the Marketer Stopped Sending Cease and Desist Letters to Granny Fans

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While Krispy Kreme has never succumb to pressure to reformulate its indulgent – and fat-filled -- doughnuts, the nearly 75-year-old brand continues to slim down in other areas, paring its ad agency list and spending virtually nothing on broadcast media.

The less-is -more approach is being driven by Chief Marketing Officer Dwayne Chambers, who in a presentation Sunday at the Association of National Advertisers conference reaffirmed the company's commitment to social media-driven word-of mouth-marketing, while embracing a hands-off approach that lets fans– not Krispy Kreme – control the brand's messaging. "I don't own the brand and the idea that I ever owned the brand is really kind of stupid," said Mr. Chambers, who has been on the job for about a year. "The more we try and control it, the less control we really have."

That was not always the case at Krispy Kreme. Just five years ago, the company's legal department would send out cease-and-desist letters to "little old ladies crocheting Krispy Kreme logos on potholders" to protect the brand's trademark, Mr. Chambers recalled. But now the company stays on the sidelines as fans create their own web and Facebook pages dedicated to the doughnuts. And while the legal folks are "freaking out" about giving up such control, Mr. Chamber's marketing philosophy is to "just allow the brand to live and let it live in those people's hearts and minds."

At the same time, Krispy Kreme is whittling down its agency roster. When Mr. Chambers arrived, the company had 17 agencies and consultancies, or as he said, "basically an agency or consultant per person in my department." Now Krispy Kreme is down to one agency-of -record -- independent shop Barkley, which handles media and marketing duties – plus a couple other shops for small projects. The smaller roster has brought more focus, he said.

"With limited budgets, everything has to work together, and it's got to be working together really, really well or you start losing effectiveness." The company – which oversees just under 800 locations across the globe, spent only $1.2 million on measured media in the U.S. in 2010, according to Kantar Media.