This is a guest post by Megan Ronecker of Ruby and Sass Design
Donuts. Fried bread delicious goodness, yummy yum yum! Whether it’s iced or filled or glazed or sprinkle topped JUST GIMME! Everyone loves a good donut, right? But here’s the thing about donuts and donut shops themselves…there isn’t much that seems to differentiate them from one another. In fact, until recently, the only time I had a donut was when I bought one at my local gas station or grocery store. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to go an actual donut shop, but it was more that I didn’t actually know when the real donut shops were open (and let’s be honest, I’m more of a donut for dessert kind of girl than the donut for breakfast sort) All the local donut shops I knew had morning hours of course, but I never really knew when they were open otherwise.
Confession: For 25 years of my life, I never even knew two different types of donuts existed. The moment I realized there was a such thing as a Cake Donut and a whole other type of donut known as the Yeast Donut, it BLEW MY MIND. For real. 25 years of my life had passed without me knowing this very vital piece of information. Now, you could blame my parents for being so remiss as to not instill a big enough love for donuts in me as a child, but we were more of an ice cream and cookies sort of family. Really, I blame the donut industry. Donuts are their THING. It’s their job to educate the world about donuts and how amazing they are. If people are unaware about their products (and how/when/where they can get them) they need to be doing something about it.
Let’s go over some branding problems that I think Donut Shops are facing:
Communication with Customers (and potential customers)
Like I mentioned earlier, local donut shops tend to be open odd hours and don’t do a great job at communicating those hours to their customers. I’ve been to several shops where they have hours posted and they’re not even correct! For instance, they don’t have Friday night hours listed but that’s exactly when I’m there buying a donut from them. That really just leads to confusion. People aren’t going to make the drive to your shop if they’re not even sure you’re open. Once you do get in, a lot of donut shops I’ve been to don’t have signs to tell you what donut is which or which donut costs what amount. For me, there’s a big difference between a custard filled donut and an icing filled donut or a raspberry filled and a strawberry filled. Unfortunately I’m not a donut expert so I can’t always tell which is for sale. These might be small things, but they all lead to confusion for your customer base. Not the example for customer service you’re striving for (at least I hope!). Plus they’re all easily fixed with proper signage and communication.
Differentiation of Products (I want to know why your donuts are THE BEST)
This ties into communication a bit, because as I mentioned earlier you need to be communicating to your ideal customers why your donuts are awesome. They need to know why they should skip the slightly stale supermarket donut case and head straight for your shop. Let’s be honest- a lot of donut shops I’ve walked into look very similar. There’s a case of donuts, probably multiple racks of donuts behind that, a cash register and maybe a fridge with self serve drinks you can buy. If it’s a big enough shop, there might even be a place with tables and chairs to enjoy the donuts at. A lot of times, even the donuts looks similar. I get it, there’s only so many ways you can make a fried piece of bread with a hole in the middle. BUT there should be some way that your donuts and your shop are differentiated from the others. Do you sell a super cool specialty donut? Are your walls painted bright pink and yellow because you’re all about happy colors? Do you have artwork hung in your shop that’s done by local artists? Think about what can make your shop unique.
Enter STRANGE DONUTS:
A brilliant example of how a donut shop can completely revolutionize and differentiate themselves is a shop in my little corner of the world (St. Louis, Missouri in the US): Strange Donuts. This phenomenon to “Get Strange” started a few years ago and has been going strong ever since. Not only do they have your classic donuts, they have a rotating span of specialty donuts, like Butterfinger, Cookie Dough-nut, Gooey Butter Cake Donut, Pecan Pie Donut, Red Velvet Donut, Banana Creme Pie and so many more. They team up with a different restaurant every week to create a “Stranger”, which is like an Entree donut – Chicken and Waffle Donut with a Fried Chicken place, Pizza Donut with a Pizza Place, BBQ Rib Donut with a BBQ joint, Crab Rangoon Donut with a Chinese Food restaurant, etc. Strange, but good! (exactly what they were going for, I’m sure)
They’re open every morning until sell out (which always happens!) and then Thursday-Saturday Evening. There’s normally a line at door when they open on weekend evenings. The first time I was there, I couldn’t believe it! I’d never seen that before at a donut shop. Their store is bright blue in color and you can even buy merchandise with their logo – sweatshirts, bumper stickers, sunglasses and t-shirts. They post daily on social media their different donuts they have for sale with drool inducing pictures. Through all of this they’ve created an excitement for their business and for their donuts. How? They created a brand and stuck with it. They’re fun in a strange, but lovable way. Their donuts are exciting and because they partner with other local businesses, they get double the excitement sent their way for their “Strangers”. They’re able to keep their business fresh and exciting in a way I’ve never seen most donut shops do. Since 2013, they’ve gone from 1 to 3 locations in 2 different cities!
How does this apply to your business?
Now, I don’t want you to think that in order to succeed you have to create the newest craziest fad of whatever your business is. If you’re a donut shop that wants to keep that old fashioned style, then go for it! But really own it and make sure that’s part of your brand. Put fresh flowers in mason jars on the tables or have a local carpenter make you a traditional counter from wood that you’d see in an old time shop. Be purposeful about the image you’re giving out to your customers (and potential customers)! What is it that makes your donuts different (and better!) than the ones at a regular old grocery store?
This doesn’t just apply to Donut Shops, this can apply to any business! Do you have a pizza shop? Great! How can you differentiate your pizza shop from the others? Do you cook your sauce from garden grown tomatoes? Do you create your pizzas using the traditional Italian methods? Do you only cook your pizzas with a Wood Burning Brick Oven?
Once you have your differentiation, then look at how those differentiations can feed into your customer’s experience. This is everything from your menu to your restaurant decor to your website to the way employees greet your guests. Remember, your brand isn’t just your logo, it’s everything your business is. Your brand is what helps you differentiate yourself from the rest of the businesses in your industry. Differentiate yourself and your brand and then make a plan to communicate that differentiation to your customers. This step is vital to your success as a business.
Megan Ronecker, the quick-witted girl behind Ruby and Sass Design, specializes in Branding and Identity Design as well as other graphic design work for small businesses, bloggers and Etsy shop owners. She’s passionate about helping them create an image and a brand that’s completely and 100% authentic to their business. After graduating from college with a degree in business and marketing, she realized that she was longing to get back to her creative roots. She taught herself Illustrator, started designing on the side, and fell in love. Ever since, she’s been overjoyed to use her creative abilities to help businesses stand out in this increasingly visual world. She knows what makes great design work – and also is not ashamed to admit that at least 60% of products she buys are because of a pretty packaging design. When not obsessing over fonts and color palettes, Megan enjoys exploring new restaurants with her husband, Kevin, picking up a good book and winning at board games in their hometown of St. Louis, MO.