Dunkin donuts Iceland

Last week travellers of Laugavegur were somewhat bemused by the sight of (mostly) Icelanders lining up for a new café. The first ones to arrive set up shop at around 9 o‘clock the night before and stayed throughout the night, all for a donut. Or a quite a few donuts. There was a new shop on the block, one which peddled sweet nuggets of sugar and custard, wrapped in a donut shaped form and covered with multi coloured glazing and joy. Yes, it was time for Dunkin Donuts to open its first Icelandic shop and hundreds of people were willing to take part.

So what  is the deal? Why did Icelanders collectively lose their minds over the borderline heavenly pieces of baked goods that are Dunkin Donuts?

The first thing you have to understand is that Iceland doesn‘t have a McDonalds. This may not seem like a big deal but being on a list that includes North Korea, Vietnam and Vatican City chaffes some of us the wrong way. Even worse is the memory of having had a popular McDonalds here, but it closing shop in the aftermath of the financial crisis, only to replaced by the awful Metro Burger chain. Imagine a Big Mac made from boredom, disappointment and wounded pride and you are half way there.

For a country that prides itself on being a big deal, surprisingly few international chains operate here. Dominos and KFC are powerhouses, but Starbucks has yet to make an apperance, Nandos is barely known and Burger King hasn‘t even been rumoured to set up shop. So when the biggest seller of donuts in the world announces its plan to set up a branch, it was a big deal. A big deal in the „look we are a real western nation“ kind of way.

While Icelanders don‘t consume that much foreign fast-food, we do consume staggering amounts of foreign media. With all the product placement and glorification of deep friedness that follows. People want what they can‘t have and visiting your favorite shop while abroad is something of a ritual. For some its a frappo-lappo at Starbucks, for others a select burger joint and literally everyone that travels pops into H&M. Everyone.

Combine that craving for the foreign with clever marketing (the first fifty buyers got a year‘s supply of coffee and donuts) and a craze was the result. That first day Dunkin sold 12.000 donuts, or one per 10 residents of Reykjavik. Six days later there was still a que outside. It wasn‘t just a new bakery, it was a celebration. It was Iceland feeling it was a bit closer to the international world it desperately wants to be a part of.

I‘m sure this opening will be studied far and wide as an example of how to invade new markets and the inevitable backlash ( wether born out of patriotism or concern for health) has simply been brushed aside. The fact is, as of right now Dunkin Donuts is the most popular fast food chain in the country, something most of us never thought we‘d see. 

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