In celebration of World Kindness Day on Monday, many U.S. Krispy Kreme stores gave a dozen free doughnuts to each of the first 500 customers to arrive. As a business move, it was both big-hearted and superbly clever. There’s a lot every entrepreneur and company leader can learn from this beloved brand.
You may or may not have heard of World Kindness Day, which was begun by a group of non-governmental organizations in 1998. It grew from there and is now celebrated as a national holiday in some countries, including Canada, Australia, Italy, and India. It’s not a national holiday in the United States, but some American companies honor it in various ways.
Krispy Kreme has become the most prominent World Kindness Day participant. Giving a dozen doughnuts each to the first 500 customers at participating stores–whether they bought anything else or not–potentially added up to 6,000 doughnuts per store. Krispy Kreme reportedly has 362 stores in the United States. If even a quarter of them participated in the World Kindness Day giveaway, that could total more than half a million doughnuts. Here’s why it was a brilliant move.

1. Krispy Kreme had the highest profile on a popular holiday.

World Kindness Day was celebrated many different ways around the country. And Krispy Kreme was not the only company to mark the occasion. Kind Snacks partnered with some charities and made charitable donations worth more than $20,000. And Tiff’s Treats (a much smaller business than Krispy Kreme) gave away 10,000 boxes of six cookies each.
That’s all great, but it’s dwarfed by the sheer scale and reach of Krispy Kreme’s World Kindness Day promotion. As a result, Krispy Kreme is now associated with the holiday in many American’s minds. To see this effect, just do a search on “World Kindness Day” and see how often the words “Krispy Kreme” or “doughnuts” appear in the results.

2. It strengthened the bond between the brand and its customers.

On the day of the promotion, Krispy Kreme’s social media accounts overflowed with thank-yous from customers who’d gotten free doughnuts. When one Facebook user reported that his box of 12 plain doughnuts didn’t include one chocolate glazed doughnut with an icing heart on it as promised in the promotion, other customers jumped in to defend Krispy Kreme and criticize him for complaining in the face of such generosity.
A few Krispy Kreme franchises that were supposed to participate closed their stores “for maintenance” instead (perhaps daunted by the prospect of giving away 6,000 doughnuts). Customers promptly reported them on social media, giving Krispy Kreme the opportunity to respond and to ask those customers to share details. That kind of thing can strengthen the brand’s relationship with its customers, even though they may be displeased with those specific stores.

3. Krispy Kreme actually encouraged kindness on World Kindness Day.

Krispy Kreme often runs promotions where it gives away products for free. For example, two days earlier on Veteran’s Day, the chain offered a free doughnut and small coffee to everyone who’d served in the military.
By giving away a dozen doughnuts per customer, Krispy Kreme virtually guaranteed that the doughnuts would be shared, since most people can’t or won’t eat that many doughnuts by themselves. And indeed, many who posted on social media reported that they’d brought the doughnuts to a local firehouse, car wash, or to their office to share with co-workers. The whole point of World Kindness Day is to encourage people to perform small random acts of kindness like these.
And of course, that’s another way that this promotion was so very clever. There’s a reason food and beverage brands hand out free samples of their products on street corners and in big grocery stores: They hope that once people taste it, they’ll buy more. By handing out doughnuts by the dozen, Krispy Kreme was effectively giving free samples to a large number of people, some of whom had likely never tried the product before. It seems a safe bet that some of those people will be back for more.
There’s a growing audience of readers who receive a daily text from me with a self-care or motivational micro-challenge or tip. Often, they text me back, and we wind up in a conversation. (Want to learn more? Here’s some information about the texts and a special invitation to an extended free trial.) Many are entrepreneurs or business leaders intent on building a brand their customers will love. Kindness can be an incredibly powerful way to do this–whether it’s World Kindness Day or not.

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