A free donut a day with your vaccine card. That’s what Krispy Kreme offered up last week in the first (big) attempt at #vaxmarketing we’ve seen so far.

To no one’s surprise, the internet lashed back. Specifically around the issue that donuts are potentially worse than the vaccine! I mean, I’ll give you a minute. Sift through the comments on their Insta post (by the way, I love the first comment: “I’m here for the comments”).

Heck, medical professionals were even calling out Krispy Kreme and “fat shaming” people in the comments. But, I digress.

There seems to be a clear line in the sand on this Krispy Kreme promotion–those who think donuts are poison and they will kill you slowly. And, those who say “it’s just a donut.”

And you know what, in looking through the comments, the folks in the latter group may just be the (slightly) larger majority!

Many of the comments on Krispy Kreme’s original tweet that allude to the “it’s just a donut” theme had hundreds, or even thousands, of likes. However, if you look at Krispy Kreme’s Facebook post it seems like opposite sentiment is winning.

Point is: Krispy Kreme stepped right in the middle of a monstrous cultural and political war. One that’s been going on for some time now, obviously.

And, if you look through the FAQs, as a Slate article points out, they did make a special exemption for the anti-vaxxer crowd.

But the bigger issue here seems to be one that many brands are realizing lately–you’ve got a real angry, frustrated and polarized community of customers and fans out there. And, much like the political divide, they have wildly different (and passionate) opinions on a variety of topics–including vaccinations and donuts.

So, did Krispy Kreme see this firestorm coming? Maybe–maybe not. Hard to tell. But, if you work in social media marketing for Krispy Kreme, you probably saw it coming. And, other brands would be wise to be prepared for this, too. And, not just when you talk about vaccinations. There seems to be a laundry list of topics that can now set off people at a moment’s notice on social media.

Where do we go from here? For starters, I’m hopeful those angry attitudes will soften just a bit as the pandemic (hopefully) wanes soon. That will help. In the meantime, if I were managing social media for a brand right now, I’d be prepared for the worst–every day. Have your crisis plans ready. Double-check every post–run it by 2-3 other people if you have to. It’s a strange time right now–and the internet is just waiting to pounce on your brand.

Make sure you’re prepared.