Doughnuts, Threads, Radio

Krispy Kreme sign taken with my phone. Obviously.

doughnuts are the priority

I drove past a Krispy Kreme Doughnuts store this week. After U-turning my car like Starsky & Hutch, I went in to treat myself. The workers seemed surprised to see me eating in the store. Their look was something like, Uh, that’s what the drive-thru is for so you can sit in a line, eat and drive, and get annoyed because your order is wrong. I enjoyed the quiet time sitting at a table and scrolling through my new Threads account. More on that experience in a moment.

On my way out, I thanked the cashier and gave a virtual fist bump to the kitchen worker as I watched the milky glaze running off the conveyor belt. I apologized to my cardiovascular system as I noticed this sign above the hand sanitizer container.

Your Safety Is Our Priority prompted me to say, “Is it really?” Should the priority be something like Hot Fresh Doughnuts. Always…? I assumed the hand sanitizing stations were installed during the pandemic. It was an in-the-moment marketing reaction for every business a few years ago. These containers will remain in our lives until we find out the sanitizer is causing other problems, and then we’ll pivot to another cause.

Krispy Kreme operates more than 1,600 stores worldwide. The prices range from $49.99 to $299.99. Let’s say the franchise got a bulk deal and paid $75.00 to have a stand placed in every store. Before you add the bags of hand sanitizer, that’s a $120,000 investment. Not much for a publicly traded company trying to be relevant during a global pandemic. Let’s say my estimation is misguided or there were two stands per store. Now we’re looking at $240,000. Still, not much for a brand like Krispy Kreme. BTW, that glazed doughnut was as good as you’re imagining right now.

Here’s where I’m going with this one. Is safety the priority we expect from this brand? I mentioned one possibility, Hot Fresh Doughnuts…Always. Another one could be the Krispy Kreme Cleaning Station. It describes the function of the hand sanitizing station, and it includes the brand name in the statement. Or a fun approach might be We glaze the doughnuts, you glaze your hands.

the nirvana of that glazed doughnut

Leave the customer with a brand benefit. The safety message certainly accomplished the benefit of the moment and Krispy Kreme installed a nice hand sanitizing station complete with an emotional statement and the company logo. Bravo. But it’s the middle of 2023 and it might be time to update the benefit. If safety is your priority, how will those beautiful pastries support your priority? The nirvana of that glazed doughnut made me whip my car around.

What is outdated in your brand? Does the audience believe your message? Is it a priority? Even if the message is a good one, is it needed? Are we trying to be too much in a very noisy world? A world with more noise thanks to Threads. More on that in a moment.

In the Audio/Content/Radio branding world, we research brands and the messages supporting those brands. (Note: I looked at the word messages a dozen times to make sure I wasn’t typing the word massages. It’s one of those words that never feels right when I type it.)

The goal is similar to any other product’s branding objective. How do we want this brand to be perceived? If the research is strong and actionable, we focus on the execution of every asset associated with the brand. Then, like most humans, we get bored or we stop paying attention. The result is images and programs with great intentions, but those images and programs don’t support the overall perception goal. Images and programs create noise. Make sure the noise supports your research and vision.

nice threads, bro

Threads. My first reaction to the name was something I might have said in high school. Nice threads, bro. Then I thought, Oh, like a thread is an exchange of messages. (There’s the messages word again. Yes, I reviewed it several times). The day when Meta’s new social media app created a milestone, I noticed a Thread from Lori Lewis about the app’s timeline to acquire 100 million users. Five days. It took Facebook four years to hit that mark. More recently, TikTok achieved it in nine months. ChatGPT was two months. Only five days for Zuckerberg’s new creation and competitor to Twitter.

My response to Lori’s thread: “Is it that good, or are we that bored?” Lori is one of audio and radio’s social media guru consultants. Her response to my response: “Only a hunch: People like a short form text/photo-based social media platform but can’t with Twitter’s drama.”

Seth Resler of Jacobs Media reviewed Threads this week and he gave seven suggestions in his post What Should Radio Do? I’ll focus on the first one Know Your Strategic Goals because Seth references the movie Up.

“Another day, another shiny new object. In the digital landscape, it’s easy to feel like Doug, the Dog from the Pixar movie Up: “Podcasts! TikTok! AI! Threads! Squirrel!” Every time a new digital tool is introduced, radio broadcasters feel the temptation to use it just to use it. Resist this urge,” said Resler.

Radio is a reactionary medium. It has reacted to cultural change in information, politics, music, and artistic performance for more than 100 years. The social media age creates a different kind of reaction. It causes us to divert our promotional attention from the radio brand and create more noise by promoting social media channels. How much airtime do we devote to a DJ/Announcer/Presenter saying, “Watch the video on our Facebook page,” or “Check out my reaction on Twitter…”?

Yes, this is the role of radio’s reactionary history. We want to promote our brands through these social channels. I get it. But at what cost to the branding messages supporting the image of Your Classic Rock Station, or The First Choice in News…?

If your company suddenly stopped every reference to a social media account, what would you talk about or promote? Maybe a local story, an event, the music, or the, wait for it, the benefits of listening to this brand.

your favorite radio station is your secret

This one made me look twice. I was signing up for a new program and when I got to the Security Questions section, the first question was What is your favorite radio station? I’ve registered for many programs and apps since Vint Cerf invented the internet, and I’ve never seen this question. As a radio enthusiast, I smiled when I saw this question at the top of the selections. It made me ask, “If a large, national, non-media brand is using the word ‘radio,’ then why doesn’t our industry like the word?”

Within 36 hours, radio industry leader Buzz Knight blogged with the question, Why Is Radio Afraid of the Word Radio? The timing meant Mercury is in retrograde or something ridiculous like that. It’s a question I’ve been asking for a decade. It’s not because I’m a veteran player/coach and I’m telling everybody to “Get off my lawn!” No. The reason is simple: Why would you walk away from a century-old brand name that turned a verb into a noun if you don’t have a better replacement? The last thought is significant: better replacement.

My Millennial and Gen Z children call Spotify radio. I know what you’re thinking. They grew up in a radio house so of course they refer to it as radio. However, they don’t listen to traditional radio stations, terrestrially or digitally. They listen to a radio station called Spotify. Those are their words, not mine.

If iHeart, the largest audio/radio/digital/streaming media company, has a jingle singing iHeart Radio every hour, then maybe the word isn’t so bad. Our challenge is creating better radio brands for an audience seeking to be entertained. How they access the entertainment isn’t the issue. Will we create entertainment they want to access?

(This post originally appeared on LinkedIn on July 14, 2023.


Ron Harrell is a contemporary media consultant specializing in brand analysis, strategy, execution, and talent coaching for radio and audio mediums. Connect with him for a No Cut & Paste review at

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