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Dunkin, Starbucks and the Power of the 'Holiday'

by 
Ethan Chernofsky
 on 
May 30, 2019
Dunkin, Starbucks and the Power of the 'Holiday'
  • Holiday creation can drive major spikes in visits
  • The impact can be channeled to a wide range of business goals
  • Brands don’t need to wait for a holiday, they can create their own

Christmas, Independence Day, Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve, National Doughnut Day.

Ask the average person to spot the outlier and they will focus on the day set aside to commemorate the breakfast dessert. Savvy retail brands have made a trend of creating buzz where it might not have otherwise existed - case in point, National Doughnut Day.

Though the day is actually rooted in America’s wartime history, the first friday of every June is hardly an event of major notoriety. Nonetheless, top brands with a foot in the world of Boston Creme and Powdered Sugar have leveraged this little known “holiday” to drive high profile awareness.

But the big question is what impact does the day actually have and what are the lessons for the wider retail world.

Dunkin Donuts - Awareness and Visits

From a national perspective, Dunkin Donuts saw their peak number of visits in 2017 and 2018 on National Doughnut Day. Compared to the baseline average for the period from January 2017 until April 2019, that marks increases of 59.3% and 68.7% respectively.

Daily visits for Dunkin Donuts since 2017 show significant peaks on National Doughnut Day

Looking at more localized environments there are also strong correlations between the campaign and continued visits. For example, in New York state, Dunkin Donuts visits following National Doughnut Day reached impressive peaks. The Saturdays that followed were 184.5% and 199% above the baseline respectively.

Beyond The Doughnut

This holiday phenomenon is not limited to pastry, nor does it require an existing ‘day’. Starbucks leveraged a December Happy Hour on December 20, 2018, to drive store traffic and loyalty program sign-ups. All someone needed to do was join the loyalty program for free in order to receive a reduced price drink. The event drove over 245,000 visitors in New York state alone, making it the third best day for in-store visits between May 2017 and April 2019 in the state.

Starbucks' December Happy Hour drove a near 24% jump from their baseline traffic in NY

What’s more, the value of the event had an impact on traffic in the days preceding and following the special offer. The week of December 17th delivered a massive 23% increase in foot traffic in NY compared to the baseline. The added genius of the campaign was that it simultaneously drove one of the core goals for Starbucks - increasing loyalty program members - an accomplishment it highlighted in its latest earnings report.

Ongoing Strategy

This sign of savvy marketing is nothing new for Starbucks who deploys a series of campaigns throughout the year to drive visits. For example, on November 2nd 2018, they gave away free, reusable red cups. The campaign led to the highest visits since the start of 2017 in California locations, 39.8% above their baseline foot traffic. It also saw the second highest number of visits nationally for all of 2018. This campaign also focused on wider goals with return visits with the cup earning a discount in the months that followed.

Free red cups drove the second highest traffic day for all of 2018 in Starbucks locations

Takeaways

Whether it be leveraging a little known holiday, creating your own, or simply drumming up interest with a catchy campaign, there is a power in understanding how to bring people to stores with holidays. The key for a brand is understanding how to maximize the investment - which generally focuses on measuring a multitude of factors and looking to check more than one box.

Dunkin Donuts did not just drive visits to their site on the day of the giveaway, they drove brand awareness in the near and long terms. Starbucks recognized that the same campaign could drive in-store visits, increase brand awareness and also drive a critical metric like loyalty program sign-ups. The ability to take a creative concept and leverage it to maximize a variety of goals can produce tremendous value.

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