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“It’s fascinating and I love it,” Krispy Kreme’s David Skena said about the creator economy, noting that it’s been a boon to the company and will be for decades.

Why Krispy Kreme is all-in on the creator economy

Chief brand officer David Skena talks influencer marketing and how branding drives sales.

David Skena has worked for some of America’s biggest brands, including PepsiCo and Kraft Foods. But his current role as chief brand officer at Krispy Kreme, which follows a 3-and-a-half-year stint as the company’s chief marketing offer, has bred some of his most memorable marketing wins, including a handful of high-profile influencer initiatives.

“It’s fascinating and I love it,” Skena said about the creator economy, noting that it’s been a boon to the company and will be for decades. “Influencers have always existed, and brands with great products have always benefited from them.”

In Krispy Kreme’s case, much of the influencer content is organic, and the brand counts a few big names as fans, including Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal and the Kardashians. 

“It’s important to find creators that share a true affinity for the brand, because it’s authentic,” said Skena. 

But brand building doesn’t operate in a silo. “I’ve always believed that it’s a false choice between growing the brand or growing sales,” he said. “You should be growing both with everything you do.” 

When using paid influencers, Krispy Kreme carefully measures impact to understand what it gets for its investment. Skena explained that, with every Krispy Kreme campaign, his team evaluates ROI in terms of whether the campaign drove traffic to stores and whether it made money inclusive of all labor and ingredient costs.

“Marketing has a critical role to play in driving traffic, and the operations group is integral in driving intent to repeat,” Skena added. “Give customers the experience you promised, and the machine keeps rolling.”

During the height of the pandemic, many high school students lost out on the final months of their senior years. As part of Krispy Kreme’s Acts of Joy initiative, it gave away a dozen doughnuts to all seniors who came into stores. It was more than just a shrewd PR move.

“Our brand is all about sharing,” Skena said. “We communicated to our high schoolers that we are what we say, no strings attached. They shared those doughnuts with friends, who then came in to visit us. We could see the success in the numbers.” 

That grassroots example was joined by a splashy, high-profile partnership with Hailey Bieber last year, in which Krispy Kreme closed down its highly trafficked Times Square store for several hours to host an influencer event. Bieber introduced a few dozen other creators and influencers to her skincare line Rhode and its new strawberry glaze peptide lip treatment, a product inspired by Krispy Kreme’s strawberry glazed doughnut.

Those creators then shared the experience with their own followers, creating a snowball effect that featured the brand in widespread coverage, from celebrity social accounts to major media outlets. 

As part of the initiative, Krispy Kreme brought back its strawberry glazed doughnut — a limited-time product first introduced in 2020 and last offered in 2021 — for a few days over Labor Day Weekend, adding a physical, revenue-driving anchor to the campaign.

Marketing is always changing, but the most successful brands find authentic ways to join the contemporary conversation. Today, Skena said, that often means embracing symbiotic partnerships with creators who share your brand’s values.

“Creators tend to have positive human traits around sharing, generosity, thoughtfulness and real-life human connection,” said Skena, noting the natural overlap with Krispy Kreme’s core tenets. “We’re a physical product that brings people together, and that’s a good thing to be in the influencer and creator world.”

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