A National Coffee Day Promotion Done Right: Dunkin’ Donuts

On Thursday, September 29, 2011, America celebrated National Coffee Day with some exciting steals and deals at popular shops. The convenience store and gas station 7-Eleven offered free medium coffees, cappuccinos, and lattes from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m, or until coffee supplies held out. Thornton’s gave away a free coffee, cappuccino, or hot chocolate until 2 p.m.

Didn’t pass any of these on your way to work? The popular coffee chain Caribou Coffee offered two coffees for the price of one. The once-unstoppable doughnut chain Krispy Kreme offered a free 12-ounce cup of its new Signature House Blend coffee. Those four national brands were the only places that celebrated National Coffee Day, or at least I thought.

This particular Thursday morning I had stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts early for breakfast and coffee for myself and a coworker. I prepared myself for a mad house but instead was greeted with an empty drive-thru. Score! I shrugged my shoulders, ordered my breakfast and the coffees, and off I drove to QLP.

A few minutes later, when I logged into my Twitter account, I saw @DunkinChicago (they represent the independent franchisee group that operates the almost 500 Dunkin’ Donuts in and around the Chicagoland area) had a new tweet:

Bubba runs on Dunkin' too!

What a cool idea! Even though they weren’t participating in National Coffee Day by giving away free coffee in their stores, they still provided an incentive to customers. They saved money by not offering (and advertising) everyone and their brother a free cup of coffee, but instead just their true fans who follow them on Twitter. I immediately grabbed my phone and took a picture of our mascot, Bubba, chilling with my cup of Dunkin’ coffee and sent it off (see right). Within a few minutes, I got a direct message thanking me for my tweet and picture and asking me to send my address for my $4 DD card.

Customer for life? You betcha!

I’m not sure why they only gave away $4 cards and not $5 or a coupon for a free medium sized drink), but I’m just excited they did something at all. This gift card is enough to cover one and a half medium coffees on a cloudy October morning. I also appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to wait in a ridiculous long line on my way to work for a discounted cup of joe. Nope, this was the best way to celebrate and promote your brand, something which every company could appreciate doing.

How you can mimic Dunkin’ Donuts’ successful Twitter promotion:

  • Ask a simple question on your Twitter account or ask for your followers to post a picture of your product. This will engage your customers and make them feel more connected to your brand and company. Plus, it gives your brand a human voice instead of just being an inanimate presence on-line.

When I checked my personal Facebook account later that day, I stumbled upon the Dunkin’ Chicago Facebook page and saw that they were giving away a DD gift card to one lucky fan every hour until 6 p.m for the day:

All you had to do was tell them in your status why you love DD and tag @Dunkin’Chicago in your post. Talk about easy!

How you can enjoy an equally successful Facebook promotion:

  • Let your customers and fans be your brand’s advocates by giving them an incentive to share with their friends why they love your brand or product. Their friends and followers will read their status on their top stories and you could have a whole new market and demographic clamoring for your company.

Don’t let social media marketing scare you or make you feel uneasy. It’s a great way to increase your brand’s awareness and increase a potential and untapped customer base!

Have you ever participated in a Facebook or Twitter promotion like this? Have your friends? Were you intrigued to learn more about the company? Sound off below!

Amy Hoidas

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ Community Manager. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on


  1. Mandy Kilinskis

    Funny you ask about participating in Twitter promotions, Amy. Thanks to sharing an office with you, I was also able to tweet a picture of Bubba + my DD iced coffee and receive a $4 gift card. I actually participate in lots of Twitter and Facebook promotions. After all, free stuff is free stuff, and retweeting/liking something doesn’t take very long. But I loved that @dunkinchicago encouraged fan interaction by asking for pictures and then retweeted many of them on their account! I also admired that they’ve continued dialogue with gift card recipients (I thanked them for the gift card and they replied, and they are suggesting products for users to use their new gift cards on).

    I gotta say, this great use of social media/interaction/promotion is starting to shake what I thought was stalwart devotion to Starbucks.

    • amy

      That’s very true about them still keeping a conversation going with their gift card recipients. While you didn’t have to send them a tweet thanking them, they certainly didn’t need to reply back. But they did, and that’s why they’re awesome! Transparency is a must for companies to portray on their social media accounts and keeping an open dialogue makes it easier. It actually seems like you’re talking to someone and not some robot that’s sending out automated tweets every X amount of time.

      I think this style of promotion works best with smaller companies (or a specific geographic area) since if Starbuck’s as whole asked customers to tweet a picture for a free cup of coffee they’d go bankrupt. But since Chicagoland Dunkin’ Donuts did it, the amount of participation was more manageable and easier on their bottom line.

  2. Joseph Giorgi

    What a great way for Dunkin’ Donuts to boost its brand engagement! For a 4 dollar gift card, of course customers will be willing to tweet a photo! Another excellent example of social media marketing done right. Nice post, Amy! Also, nice Bubba pic! 🙂

    • amy

      I think that’s why this promotion was so awesome in my book, “For a 4 dollar gift card, of course customers will be willing to tweet a photo!” This amount is large enough to cover most menu items, but isn’t so large that DD will lose money on offering it. Plus, taking a picture takes all of 30 seconds (I think, never timed myself) so I can justify spending that time to participate since I may receive something in return.

      Bubba’s such a photogenic guy, I think it’s impossible for him to take a bad picture 😉

  3. Jill Tooley

    Great post, Amy! I was so psyched to see that Dunkin’ Chicago was doing something like this for National Coffee Day. The other chains may have had stores packed with people wanting free coffees, but Dunkin’ took a different approach by appealing to their highly-engaged social media audience instead. As you said, it’s almost as if they wanted to reward their biggest fans by doing it this way!

    I wonder if they randomly do stuff like this to engage their fans, or if this was a one time thing?

    The biggest question is…what are you going to spend that $4 on? 😉

    • amy

      That’s really the thing I liked most about this promotion, I didn’t have to wait in line. Jimmy John’s has done promotions for a free sandwich and the lines are out the door and around the building. Yuck, no thank you 😛 But send a picture while sitting comfortably at my desk or tag you in my facebook status? Done and done.

      I know I’ve been blowing up their twitter feed lately with my thank you tweets (and blog postings ;)), but I’ll still follow and check their Facebook page to see what’s up even if it isn’t ‘National Coffee Day’ or ‘National Doughnut Day’. Like I said in the post, they now have a fan for life and all it cost them was $4 and some time chatting with me.

      Your question has been running through my head since my card arrived, too many delicious decisions!! AAAGGHH!!!!

  4. Eric

    I almost wonder if they were selectively targeting part of the market by promoting a giveaway exclusively through Twitter. They were smart to still promote themselves without giving and advertising to the masses (understandable, if not smart, in a tight and tough economy). Being one of the rare few who has neither a Facebook account or a Twitter account, though, I have to say I would’ve felt left-out (much less anyone without regular internet access, and/or the aforementioned accounts).

    Luckily, American may run on Dunkin’, but Eric runs on Coca-Cola.

    And yes, I just did lodge a complaint against a social media promotion via a blog comment. That’s how I roll.

    • amy

      You are one interesting fellow Eric. Keep on rolling 🙂

  5. Jen

    Great post Amy! DD has the right idea for sure. I would rather participate in a social media picture contest to win a gift card, over standing in line somewhere to get free coffee between 7am-11am. Enjoy your free coffee!!!

    • amy

      Thanks Jen! Have I mentioned how excited I am 😉

  6. Amanda

    Yay for national coffee day!!! It’s so awesome that both of you got a gift card! That’s a great way to do a promotion I think. Easy to enter, easy to win. =)

    • Amy Swanson

      “Easy to enter, easy to win” sums up my favorite kind of promotion 😉 Thanks for commenting Amanda!

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