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Trend vs. Tradition: A Donut Conundrum

December 5, 2012

We recently told you about one of our new clients, Mrs. Dunster’s, a donut company out of Sussex, New Brunswick.

Mrs. Dunster’s has been in the donut business for years and has an established customer base throughout Atlantic Canada and New England. Though we’re not finished with their new website, we’re working on developing content. A big part of this process is researching the industry and identifying trends.

What we found is that donuts are shaping up to be the next big thing. Baked goods in general are seeing a spike in popularity, with cupcakes leading the way, but trendy little donut shops, such as Portland’s Voodoo Doughnut and Toronto’s Glory Hole Doughnuts are starting to make themselves more visible than ever before.

You would assume selling a product that happens to be huge right now would be a good thing, but the challenge has been deciding whether to stick with Mrs. Dunster’s existing image – one of warmth, memories, and homemade treats shared with family – or trying to fit in with the image of some of the trendier donut shops, which tend to be colourful, quirky, and over-the-top, marketing themselves using very tongue-in-cheek and risqué messaging (we’re looking at you, Glory Hole).

“I live in Maine, and spend the majority of my nights stuffing my face with your molasses donuts. My god, they’re too good!”  – Facebook User

Obviously the quirky products, edgy messaging, and cheeky campaigns are a recipe for success. That formula is clearly working for dozens of donut brands. But does that mean that we should create marketing content for Dunster’s that follows the trend?

In this case, no. What works for one brand doesn’t necessarily work for another. There is no formula for guaranteed success because every brand has a different audience to answer to, and in the case of Mrs. Dunster’s, a tradition to uphold. Good marketing campaigns don’t have to be as flashy and shocking as a neon-blue donut heaped with bacon or Froot Loops in order to be noticed. Whatever gimmick you go with, it has to be your own and it has to appeal to your target audience. Before you jump on a marketing trend assuming it will work as well for you as it did for others, it’s important to ask yourself what your customers will think. Pushing them away for the sake of keeping up is counterproductive and will weaken your brand.

“LOVE your donuts. Every summer we would visit our grandparents in New Brunswick. My grandmother would serve Dunster’s donuts warmed in the oven, they were amazing, soft and warm in the middle and crispy on the outside. . . Awesome!” – Facebook User

Mrs. Dunster’s sells simple, old-fashioned flavours, designed to remind people of their own grandma’s homemade donuts. Changing this would have meant completely alienating their existing customer base and erasing a strong tradition of excellence. The company’s existing customers are very loyal and very attached to Mrs. Dunster’s products. All you have to do is check out the testimonials on the company’s Facebook page to see that. We’re happy to say that we’re developing content for Mrs. Dunster’s that, while still being forward-thinking, honours their audience and their brand tradition. We’ll keep you posted on our progress!