Tuesday, June 08, 2010

It all comes down to this

I was in Yum-Yum Donuts this morning, and they have a big sign on the wall that says, "It all comes down to this: we build a better donut." The same claim is also emblazoned on their donut boxes.

My initial mental response in the donut shop, which I still believe to be completely accurate, was, "Bullcrap. It all comes down to this: you're close to my house." I'll grant that it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that someone might think or even say, "You know what? I'm tired of Pachyderm Sphincter Donuts. I'm going to drive the extra half mile to Yum-Yum!" But I strongly doubt that anyone actually has. I know donut snobs who would pass up other donut places to hit a Krispy Kreme--myself included--but a faceless joint like Yum-Yum? No way.

Which led me to thinking about the strange phenomenon of donut advertising. Mainly the near absence thereof. I vaguely recall seeing some TV spots for one donut house or another, but I don't think they've ever been common. What's to advertise? Isn't the whole point of a donut house that you know exactly what you're going to get inside? OTOH, the same is true of the fast food industry, which from all appearances spends many times more on advertising than on food components. But maybe burgers and burritos offer more avenues for customization. That aren't already exploited by everyone else, I mean. Even the most humble donut store has about a zillion varieties of original glazed, powdered, chocolate-covered, creme-filled, etc. I submit that the donut market is already pretty well saturated with product lines, and that everyone knows it. I further believe that everyone who has a mind to buy donuts already knows if there is a donut place in the neighborhood, and doesn't care what name is on the sign. Or maybe the profit margin on donuts is enough to employ donut makers but not advertisers.

Which brings me back to the odd claim, touted in their stores and on their boxes and, as far as I can tell, nowhere else, that Yum-Yum Donuts builds a better donut. You don't even get this message until you're in the store, or munching out of the box of donuts on the counter at the office/station house/rehab. This is post-hoc advertising. Its purpose is not to entice you to buy Yum-Yum Donuts over the competition's; we all know that you're going to the donut joint closest to your home or workplace, and that you don't really give a crap what brand of donut you buy (with the possible exception of Krispy Kreme). The only purpose I can see in the "We build a better donut" claim is to make you feel better about the donuts you already bought. Which is maybe not a bad idea. When you're sitting in your terrycloth bathrobe amidst smoldering piles of cigarette butts, e-Bay junk, and cat poop, you need all the reassurance you can get.

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Blogger Nentuaby said...

It should be noted that donut shops DO operate, in general, on razor thin margins. Quite often they don't have any formal employees, or fewer than they need, but are staffed by the owning family.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Grant said...

Here in Canada we have a ubiquitous donut shop called Tim Hortons. Tim's DOES advertise on television, but now that I think about it, they don't really advertise their donuts, because everybody already knows they do them. They advertise their soups, and their contests. Interesting.

10:03 PM  
Blogger Historian said...

hmmm... its definitely worthy of note that donuts represent a sector of the junk food industry that hasn't been completely dominated by corporate chains...

Maybe family donut shops still abound because a lot of people who have a regular or occasional donut habit (like myself) know that you can get unique and enticing varieties from different family shops. For example, there is a shop near me that sells buttermilks with blueberries in them (best donut I've ever eaten)!! and maple bars with two strips of bacon on top (which a cop in the shop dared my friend Mike to try. Mike is Filipino, and Filipinos never pass up pork [unless muslim] - anyway that was an amazing interaction, but thats another story!)!!


Also, I think it also has to do with comfort food. What I really want when I go into a donut shop is somebody familiar and friendly to give me something delicious and horrible for me with a smile. In my experience, family owned shops are more friendly and familiar. You get to know the family, but not well enough to have any drama, you learn when they fry, and they love giving regular customers their special apple fritters still warm from the death-licious oil.

man i like donuts.

12:22 PM  

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