Marketing Magazine

Robin’s Donuts claims rural market

By Chris Daniels

Robin’s Donuts is using “guerrilla warfare” to maintain its position in the competitive doughnut wars.

At least that’s how marketing director Mark Jenkyns puts its strategy, which is to leave the big-city hubs like Toronto to Tim Hortons and Krispy Kreme.
Rather, he says Robin’s aims to “surround” big cities and corner the rural market. It is a strategy that has served Robin’s well, with its 260 locations nationwide making it the second-largest doughnut chain and, according to Jenkyns, the leading chain in Western Canada.

“Robin’s is the unsung doughnut operation,” says Doug Fisher, food service and franchise consultant and president of Toronto-based FHG International.
“They are a quiet group and not on anyone’s radar screens.”

Billboards, as well as local sponsorships, form Robin’s Donuts’ marketing plans

That could change. Robin’s is twinning its stores with sister chain 241 Pizza, a strategy started almost two years ago when Robin’s was bought by 241 parent Afton Food Group of Burlington, Ont. Jenkyns says 50 to 60 such partnerships are planned over the next year or so, with four such twinned locations in Alberta, and one each in Winnipeg and London, Ont. To further play up its rural strategy, Robin’s advertising; which includes everything from radio, outdoor and television; plays up its sponsor support of local hockey, gymnastics and swim teams. Jenkyns says Robin’s spends in the low millions per year on marketing.

However, Fisher says Robin’s could “go after the market a little more aggressively” by revamping and repositioning its tired stores and logo, as well as introducing new products.

It’s a charge that Jenkyns has heard before, especially directed at its long-time tag line “You always get a break at Robin’s.” But he says those
changes would need to be supported by a major ad campaign, something that would likely be too costly.