Dunkin' Donuts brews up strong social response to Boston bombings

Massachusetts-based coffee chain finds perfect social media response by remembering that it's a community member

When Dunkin' Donuts executives were deciding how to respond on Twitter and Facebook to the Boston Marathon bombings, they acted like what they are - members of a grieving Boston community.

As the community pulled together to care for the wounded and support each other, and local, state and federal agencies began a massive manhunt for the bombers, local and national companies had to figure out how to respond on social media.

For instance, executives had to decide whether their company should tweet about the incident, and whether new marketing campaigns should be postponed.

The Dunkin' Donuts restaurant chain based in nearby Canton faced these questions on the day of the bombings, as well as during the following week.

The company's social media effort, fraught with potential social pitfalls and blunders, worked so well that industry analysts are pointing to it as an example of what companies should do after such a tragic event.

"As a company with proud Boston roots, our hearts are with those who were affected by the tragic events at the Boston Marathon," said Jessica Gioglio, the social media manager for Dunkin' Brands, in an email. "We felt that it was important to express this sentiment to our social media community."

Dunkin' Donuts, with restaurants on street corners all over New England and beyond, was already handing out samples of its wares at the Prudential Center Plaza during the marathon, and had employees both running and cheering on the racers.

Just after the bombings at the finish line on April 15, Dunkin' Donuts tweeted, "Our thoughts are w/ the victims & everyone affected by the explosions at the Boston Marathon. We grieve with all of Boston & the country."

Then the company went silent on both Facebook and Twitter for three days.

After that, the coffee chain tweeted, "We're proud to announce a US$100,000 donation to the One Fund Boston to help those impacted during this difficult time." The tweet linked to a press release announcing that Dunkin' Donuts shops throughout New England were collecting One Fund Boston donations from customers.

The company did not resume its normal Facebook and Twitter marketing campaigns until Sunday, April 21 - six days after the bombings.

Alex Hinojosa, vice-president of media operations for EMSI Public Relations, said companies that use social networks for marketing purposes are in a precarious situation during a crisis. The companies need to make sure everything they tweet or post is well thought out, he said.

To do that, Hinojosa and other experts recommend that companies create a social media crisis management plan to guide them once a crisis comes.

And a crisis management plan is exactly what Dunkin' Donuts relied on.

"Our policies are detailed and situation-focused, but the key theme is that you must have a cross-functional task force of subject matter experts," said Gioglio. "Have it outlined in your plan who needs to be involved and approve the appropriate course of action during a sensitive situation."

She added the company's crisis management team includes workers from different departments. During a major crisis, an even wider group is gathered to offer counsel.

"It's important to hear different opinions and determine if and what type of response is appropriate," said Gioglio. "This is important because all external-facing communications should be consistent, yet personalised for the channels they're going out on."

She noted that no employees or restaurants were physically harmed by the bombings.

"We put a considerable amount of thought into our Facebook post and tweet, and are proud that it came from the heart, as we were experiencing these tragic events with the Boston community," said Gioglio. "We felt that it was important to keep our post simple and heartfelt out of respect for our community."

She also pointed out that immediately after the bombings, the company stopped all planned social media communications.

With people focused on sharing stories and their support for those impacted by the bombings, Dunkin' wanted to put all national campaigns on hold and show their respect with social media silence.

Gioglio said there's nothing she wishes they had done differently.

"When posting, we expected to see a range of responses to our posts," she said.

"We reviewed all of the responses carefully and took it as a learning opportunity to see how our consumers wanted our brand to act and offer support in these situations. Overall, we believe the recommendations and responses from our social media community were in line with the actions we took."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Craig Davis

​Leadership resilience, startups scaling up, marketing best practices, customer insights - these are just a few of the topics we manage to explore in the latest episode of Conversations over a Cuppa with CMO featuring Craig Davis.

More Videos

Was really informative. Customer retention is very important for companies as retaining customers are simpler compared to making new ones...

Bhooshan Shetty

What lies ahead for the future of marketing post-AI

Read more

Good day sir / madamWe CLOSED JOINT-STOCK COMPANY AO KAYUM NEFT OIL COMPANY is one of theleading Oil & Gas trading companies in Russi...

BARYBKIN ALEXANDER ALEXANDROVI

3-pronged marketing approach for property disruptor Brickx

Read more

Good day sir / madamWe CLOSED JOINT-STOCK COMPANY AO KAYUM NEFT OIL COMPANY is one of theleading Oil & Gas trading companies in Russi...

BARYBKIN ALEXANDER ALEXANDROVI

Oath to fully acquire Yahoo7 from Seven West Media

Read more

Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Definitely bookmarked for future reading! Check this website https://a2designlab.com/ with lots of ...

Ryota Miyagi

Brene Brown: What it takes to be a brave leader right now

Read more

Well said! It is high time to look into the cultural values and beliefs of the audience before serving with the ads. If it is against the...

Praveen Kumar

The X factor in multicultural media planning and buying - Digital advertising - CMO Australia

Read more

Blog Posts

Life beyond the cookie: 5 steps to mapping the future of marketing measurement

​There’s no denying there’s been a whirlwind of response to the imminent demise of the third-party cookie from all parts of the industry. But as we’ve collectively come to better understand the implications, it’s clear this change is giving the digital advertising industry the opportunity to re-think digital marketing to support core industry use cases, while balancing consumer privacy.

Natalie Stanbury

Director of research, IAB Australia

Ensuring post-crisis success

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed brands’ CX shortcomings and a lack of customer understanding. Given ongoing disruption, customer needs, wants and expectations are continually changing, also causing customers to behave in different ways. Just look at hoarding toilet paper, staple and canned food, medicinal and cleaning products.

Riccardo Pasto

senior analyst, Forrester

A few behavioural economics lesson to get your brand on top of the travel list

Understanding the core principles of Behavioural Economics will give players in the travel industry a major competitive advantage when restrictions lift and travellers begin to book again. And there are a few insights in here for the rest of the marketing community, too.

Dan Monheit

Co-founder, Hardhat

Sign in