How do you engage community influencers and families (a target demographic), create an opportunity for franchisees to build one-on-one relationships in the community while strengthening the brand halo with a broadly relevant community relations initiative? You make the homework equation a little sweeter for students, parents and teachers. The Grade A Donuts Homework Achievement program targets a crucial but maligned educational area – homework – and has evolved into an effective and anticipated teaching tool, ordered—and celebrated—by thousands of teachers throughout the target region.
Dunkin’ Donuts is the largest coffee and donut shop chain in the country, with more than 1,000 shops in the New York- and Philadelphia- areas. While many of the franchisees are active in their individual communities, Dunkin’ Donuts received consistently low scores in consumers’ perception of the brand’s community involvement. In 1998, with the core family demographic in mind, Weber Shandwick began building an umbrella community relations initiative, Dunkin’ Donuts’ WEE CARE: Community Partnership for Children that would serve as a platform for targeted cohesive community programming.
One of the core programs, Grade A Donuts, was created to encourage homework excellence among elementary school students. It received glowing feedback during its pilot years. As the program entered its third year, Dunkin’ Donuts was looking to increase the scale and reach of the effort and seeking new ways to engage the community.
In the early stages of developing this school-based program, Weber Shandwick consulted with educators and popular educational literature to identify an area that was not only broad and important enough to create a program around, but different enough to make an impact – both educationally and promotionally. The research led the team to homework – essential for student success, the bridge between home and school (a key to reaching parents), yet effectively ignored by corporate supporters. In considering the age group on which to focus, Weber Shandwick further uncovered the oft-reported importance of third grade as a pivotal year in predicting long-term student success.
· Reinforce Dunkin’ Donuts image as a proud member and supporter of the communities it serves
· Heighten awareness of the Dunkin’ Donuts brand
· Drive shop traffic
· Mobilize local influencers (e.g. teachers, legislators, local celebrities) to be ambassadors for the brand
· Align Dunkin’ Donuts with a highly respected educational publisher
· Create a reason for kids and their families to visit Dunkin’ Donuts again and again
· Showcase Dunkin’ Donuts’ – and individual franchisees’—support of the community
Weber Shandwick worked with the experts at Scholastic, Inc. to develop the year-three program, which was distributed to Scholastic’s list of more than 12,000 third-grade teachers throughout the New York- and Philadelphia- areas. The branded educational packet teachers received included a “Reach for the Stars” poster for in-class display, tips for teachers and parents, goal sheets for students, homework excellence certificates and donut vouchers. In short, the packet was not only a helpful educational tool, but provided multiple opportunities for teachers, students and parents to connect with the brand.
Grade A “Wall of Fame”
To create another reason for families to visit Dunkin’ Donuts, at the same time allowing individual franchisees to showcase their support for the community, Weber Shandwick enlisted several dozen shops to feature a “Wall of Fame.” On these walls, Homework Star students were celebrated in personalized stars on display throughout the program period.
In an effort to keep students’ and teachers’ enthusiasm level high throughout the program, while creating another reason to celebrate Grade A Donuts in the community and in the media, Weber Shandwick created the “Homework Is Important Because…” poster contest. Classes throughout the region competed for a chance to win a combined total of $10,000 in books. Mary GrandePre, the artist of the famed Harry Potter books, led a team of judges that included legislators, school board members and athletes. Four first-place winners and one grand-prize winner were selected in each participating state. Winning classes were honored by Dunkin’ Donuts and appropriate local judges and dignitaries at ceremonies held at the New York Public Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, New Jersey State Museum and Delaware Museum of Natural History. The winning artwork stayed on display for all in the communities to see through the end of the school year.
Weber Shandwick introduced the local media to Grade A Donuts by distributing press materials and program samples in personalized lunch boxes. Select newspapers tracked the program success by staying in touch with their local teachers, while other media outlets simply included the Grade A Donuts homework tips for parents. At the culmination of the program, Weber Shandwick also spread the good news of the grand prize-winning classes to their local media.
Awareness – More than 50 regional newspapers covered news of the Grade A Donuts program and local news stations heralded Dunkin’ Donuts’ participation in the community. Teachers and parents demonstrated their resounding support for the program, with calls flooding the information line requesting the program and coupons.
Community Alignment – The Grade A Donuts program aligned Dunkin’ Donuts with trusted and influential members of the community who showcased their support for the program by participating in contest judging and award ceremonies and, of course, by using the program in the classroom.
Shop Traffic – The Grade A Donuts program had monthly traffic drivers built in with thousands of students and their parents visiting shops to redeem the Homework Star donut coupons. In addition, hundreds more kids and their parents sought out “Wall of Fame” shops to showcase their homework achievements.
Program Expansion – With the fourth year of the program already underway, participants are benefiting from several program enhancements. For example, Weber Shandwick assembled a teacher advisory board, which led to a program format that is easily personalized by teachers. In addition, in order to ensure that each and every program produced is put to use, Grade A Donuts is now order-only – and order expectations were easily exceeded. Finally, the program has already received media coverage this year, even as the recent tragedies have made editorial space far more scarce. Fourth-year coverage to-date includes News 12 Westchester, News 12 Connecticut, News 12 New Jersey, Staten Island Advance, the Trenton Times and more.