How Dunkin’s 16-year-old Spokesperson Led to Most Successful Product Launch in Company History
By Gabriella Mansour, Account Executive
During the coronavirus pandemic, Dunkin’ has been a source of innovation through its beverage menu to keep up with customer trends. Dunkin’s social media presence also grew during the peak of quarantine when beverage trends began circulating on TikTok. TikTok is a social media platform for creating and viewing short-form videos of various genres. Its most-followed creator, Charli D’Amelio is a sixteen-year-old dancer who also possesses a great appreciation for Dunkin’. With over 100 million followers, she has posted numerous dances with her Dunkin’ cold brew beverage in hand. After Dunkin’ caught wind of D’Amelio’s loyalty to the brand, they announced their national partnership with the social media sensation. In September of 2020, Dunkin’ launched “The Charli”, D’Amelio’s signature cold brew with whole milk and caramel swirl. While this partnership was deemed successful by Dunkin’ and its stakeholders, many were skeptical of this business strategy given D’Amelio’s young age.
In terms of success, this campaign received the most engagement from Dunkin’s consumers than any other previous product launch (BusinessInsider). Dunkin’s strategic partnership with D’Amelio reinforces the brand's leadership in the field of Gen-Z marketing.
Dunkin’ has set itself apart from competitors by leveraging its promotion of social media star, Charli D’Amelio. After "The Charli" hit Dunkin' menus, the brand also included a special on the Dunkin' app that instantly increased engagement. According to CNBC, “The Charli” campaign boosted the number of Dunkin’ app users by 57% within the first day. DD Perks members received a free-beverage reward during the first week of the campaign when they pre-ordered “The Charli". This incentive, paired with the fact that the DD perks program is free with the Dunkin’ app, led to increased customer interaction. By enticing customers with a bonus through their loyalty program, Dunkin’ was able to attract more customers to use their mobile-ordering system.
The success of this campaign was not only seen through Dunkin’s sales, but also in increased social media mentions and tags for the company by D’Amelio’s millions of fans. On TikTok, users began voluntarily filming themselves tasting and rating “The Charli”. As of 2021, #TheCharli on TikTok has over 125.9 million views, with millions of fans tagging it at the end of their taste-tests. Dunkin’ also created a custom song for D’Amelio to dance to while promoting “The Charli”’s release. This video received 55.5 million views, followed by 9.4 million likes. With TikTok’s custom algorithm, videos will surface on any user’s feed. TikTok's business model also promoted the instantaneous fashion of users participating in the trend of taste-testing “The Charli”.
Through the launch of “The Charli”, Dunkin’ successfully expanded its demographic by appealing to young customers. The company met these consumers where they are, on social platforms. This campaign reinforces that Dunkin’s strategy team is well-versed in the mechanics of Gen-Z marketing. Charli D’Amelio helped lead the most successful product launch in Dunkin’ history. By the looks of this partnership, it does not seem like the collaborative efforts will stop at her cold brew.