Meet Melanie Cohn: The Social Media Expert Behind Dunkin’ Brands’ Digital Innovation

Caitlin Cavanaugh

After 68 years of delighting consumers with donuts and drinks, Dunkin’ Brands has not only managed to stay relevant, but to thrive. The brand’s unwavering commitment to enhancing the consumer experience has been driven by two priorities: digital and donut innovation.

Enter Melanie Cohn, who has been leading digital and social media strategy at the food and beverage brand since 2014. Melanie was recently named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for leading unique digital initiatives for the company, and she’s been instrumental in evolving the brand’s presence both in restaurants and online.

I sat down with Melanie to capture her best pieces of advice for brands looking to stay relevant and stand out in today’s digital world.

Dunkin' is a 68-year-old legacy brand. How does your team keep the brand fresh and engaging, while still staying true to the brand's essence on social media?

The history and nostalgia of the brand is what makes it so special. We leverage that passion and brand love by creating new tools and experiences for our fans. One example is our emoji keyboard, which features fun Dunkin’ sayings and everyday favorites like our munchkins and iced coffee. Now our fans can speak in Dunkin’ whenever they want, in the platform of their choice, from iMessage to Facebook Messenger to Snapchat and Kik. We’ve seen millions of content shares across channels since we’ve created these and will continue to build off our GIFs and emojis.

Consumer expectations are constantly evolving. How does Dunkin’ stay ahead of the curve to meet and exceed these expectations?

Our goal is to put our consumers at the center of everything we do – so we’re constantly shifting and changing based on their needs. Part of that means putting some decisions in their hands. Recently, we let our fans choose which Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavored coffee would return. Instead of sending them to a website to vote, we wanted to lean into their existing behavior, so we turned to Snapchat. As a twist, we asked them to vote via Snapchat filters, available only in our stores. Each filter represented a coffee flavor, and the filter with the most shares influenced which flavors would come back. We saw a ton of engagement as it was a different way to cast a vote and a new use of filters.

Sharing great channel-specific content is Dunkin's strong suit. Could you share a few tips on how you and your team approach each channel and create content that resonates?

We have clear roles for what we want to achieve in each channel. For instance, Facebook is our core video platform where our biggest news lives and where we go live to showcase behind-the-scenes happenings, whereas Twitter is our chance to speak to fans 1:1. For each channel, we have a defined approach which helps us focus our creative ideas and go all-in on specific platforms versus trying to make one piece work everywhere.

Dunkin’ Brands sets clear roles around what they want to achieve in each unique social media channel.

You were recently recognized on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for leading unique digital initiatives at Dunkin’ Brands, including having a social-powered menu board display in Dunkin’ restaurants. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

We think it’s important to bring the online experience in-store, so we came up with a playful way to do that for National Donut Day. We worked with Khoros to display National Donut Day conversations via a flavor leaderboard, showcasing the most talked about donut flavors on the day. We also had a real-time ticker showing the total number of tweets and Instagram posts about Donut Day which showed just how much love people have for this holiday. This goal was to bring the conversation in-store, help people make flavor decisions, and showcase donut love across the country.

Editor's note: Curious to see how Khoros can help your brand make the most out of its social media presence and capitalize on brand love à la Dunkin? Request a demo today.

Looking back, what team win are you most proud of?

We’re very excited about voice and the possibilities for us as a brand. With that, we developed our first-ever Alexa Skill, a coffee quiz, that was launched on National Coffee Day in September 2017. The process of building content for voice was a huge learning experience for us – we had to shift the way we think about content creation, and adapt to the unique user experience on Alexa. We saw thousands of people use our Alexa Skill within just a few days after the launch – that was a proud moment for the team.

What are you most excited about diving into next?

We're most excited about bringing new experiences to our fans through content and technology. We’re looking at augmented reality to bring fans into our world, continuing to focus on messaging apps and conversational content, and leaning more into live video and Instagram stories.

Coffee flavors come and donut varieties go, but the heart of the Dunkin’ brand has proved to withstand the test of time. By keeping the consumer at the core and embracing the offerings of a digital landscape, Dunkin’ Brands is sure to continue to see evolutionary (and tasty) success.

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