Case Study: Dunkin’ Donuts Brews Success With Nano-Influencers

dunkin donuts marketing strategy

Instagram Nano-Influencer Marketing Case Study: Dunkin’ Donuts Marketing Strategy Rallies Espresso Lovers With “Sipping Is Believing” Campaign

The influencer marketing industry is booming, with marketers doubling down on online personalities by the billions. Instagram’s position as the leading social media platform of influencer marketing is undisputed, with its most prominent stars earning tens of thousands of dollars a post. Brands have become increasingly comfortable, however, utilizing lesser-known mid-tier and micro-influencers in their campaigns in recent years.

Nano-influencers—social media users with 1,000 to 10,000 followers—have flown under the radar and have proved to be successful brand collaborators. While macro-influencers win out in terms of total engagement, smaller influencer tiers have established themselves as an effective option for influencer marketing campaigns of companies big and small.

With over 70 million donuts consumed last year and its status as the 5th largest seller of ground coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts is a veritable behemoth of the food and beverage industry. Last year, the company generated $300 million in coffee sales alone as it moves to target a younger, digitally-centric generation.

dunkin donuts marketing strategy

No surprise then, that Dunkin’—as it is being rebranded as—has scoped the potential of both nano- and micro-influencers to improve their social media engagement as part of their ‘coffee-first’ strategy to make headway into Starbucks’ popularity.

Dunkin’ Donuts Marketing Serves Up A Bite-Sized Influencer Campaign

Dunkin’s increasing popularity as a provider of drinks to consumers is what underlines this campaign. Coffee is front-and-center while their signature donuts receive little mention as the company looks to capitalize on its share of the beverage market.

Dunkin’s marketing strategy was defined by a concerted effort to reach an authentic audience and produce high engagement rates by utilizing nano- and micro-influencers. Posts mainly focused on being realistic and relatable to the audience, promoting Dunkin’s new handcrafted espresso drinks.


dunkin donuts marketing strategy

  • Raise awareness of Dunkin’s coffee-first focus as part of its rebrand
  • Raise awareness of its handcrafted espresso to capitalize on the beverage’s increasing popularity.
  • Improve engagement on Instagram to improve its social media presence (1.5M Instagram followers compared to Starbucks’ 17.4M)


  • Channel – Instagram
  • Influencers – Micro- and nano-influencers, primarily Millennials or younger


dunkin donuts marketing strategy

  • Natural and authentic posts to appeal to the sensibility of small influencer followings
  • Positivity and energy from influencers
  • Consistent brand message present across Instagram posts
  • Primarily female influencers


Combined results from 25 analyzed posts:

Social Reach

  • Instagram followers targeted: 1,136,000


  • Likes: 21,975
  • Comments: 965
  • Engagement rate: 5.2%

dunkin donuts marketing strategy

Dunkin’s influencer marketing campaign featured a variety of influencers with 50,000 followers and below. Our analysis showed nano-influencers generated higher engagement rates. The trend of smaller Instagrammers being able to leverage their attentive and intimate audiences is true in this case, and Dunkin’ succeeds in organically growing a support base for its coffee ambitions.

Vanessa Lace Buzzes In Espresso Ad

Vanessa Lace is one of the smallest nano-influencers in Dunkin’s campaign. She primarily posts fashion and lifestyle updates to her 3,000 followers and uploaded a single sponsored post for Dunkin’, featuring her drinking an espresso in her hometown, Philadelphia. Vanessa’s appeal to the typically coveted Millennial audience on Instagram is key for Dunkin’s attempts to challenge more established coffee brands.

dunkin donuts marketing strategy

With 732 likes and 63 comments, Vanessa achieved an engagement rate of 26.1%, a performance more than five times the campaign average. She used the campaign tags #sippingisbelieving and #phillyrunsondunkin.

Reannoin Celins Warms Up In Philly Cold

Reannoin Jean Celins uploads fashion and lifestyle photos for her following. Her online presence bears a striking resemblance to Vanessa’s: both are based in Philadelphia, have just over 3,000 followers, and appeal to a younger female audience.

dunkin donuts marketing strategy

Celins posted a single sponsored ad—the post is lighthearted with some clear personal input in the description while remaining consistent with the brand message and tags (#sippingisbelieving, #phillyrunsondunkin). Celins accrued 291 likes and 24 comments for a very impressive engagement rate of 9.9%.

Sherrie Tan Cooks Up Dunkin’ Ad For Foodie Fans

Chicago-based Sherrie Tan (@sherriesavorsthecity) is one of Dunkin’s most followed influencers of their campaign, with over 50,000 followers for her cooking and travel Instagram. With a comparatively large fan base, Tan represents a more conventional approach for Dunkin’, partnering with an influencer with a larger reach than others involved in the campaign.

dunkin donuts marketing strategy

Tan posted a single upload for the campaign, recommending their coffee line in a relatively brand-centric message for her fans. Despite encouraging her followers to comment on the post, Tan only received 609 likes and 80 comments for an engagement rate of 1.3%. For someone who regularly tops 1,000 likes on her posts, her Dunkin’ ad is a poor showing for the campaign.


  • Dunkin’ leveraged several nano-influencers to generate positive engagement.
  • Larger micro-influencers were also sponsored, though our analysis indicates lower engagement rates in comparison to nanos.
  • A majority of influencers involved were female.
  • Brand message and hashtag usage remained consistent throughout posts, but influencers were given room to create personalized messages.