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'Everyday Joes' Star in Dunkin' Donuts' Campaign

January 5, 2011

By George Anderson

Dunkin' Donuts is turning to the man (and woman) on the street to help it gain an advantage in the competition for hot and cold coffee drinkers. The chain announced a multimillion dollar ad campaign featuring actual customers.

"The love that our customers have for Dunkin' Donuts is truly unique, and this campaign ties into that passion in a very personal way," said John Costello, chief global customer and marketing officer at Dunkin' Brands, said in a statement.

The communications turn on a simple question and answer between consumers. "What are you drinkin'?", "I'm drinkin' Dunkin'."

Dan Saia, vice president of consumer engagement at Dunkin' Donuts, told The Boston Globe that one of the goals of the new campaign is to gain share in the iced coffee category. The chain rolled out Iced Dunkin' Dark Roast last year.

"Iced coffee is an emerging trend around the country,'' Mr. Saia told the Globe. "So, you'll see our spokespeople drinking hot and iced coffee, because it's now a year-round beverage.''

The integrated campaign will utilize television, radio, online, out-of-home, social media and in-store to reach consumers.

Separately, Dunkin' Donuts announced a joint promotion with the American Red Cross in seven states: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. "Give a Pint, Get a Pound" gives consumers who donate blood a coupon good for a free pound of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts.

Discussion Questions: Are real customers more effective than actors in ad messages for businesses such as Dunkin' Donuts? Which of the various communication methods (television, radio, online, out-of-home, social media and in-store) do you think will be most/least effective for Dunkin' Donuts in the new campaign?

Discussion Questions:

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Instant Poll:

Which delivery method do you think will be most effective in driving coffee sales for Dunkin' Donuts in its new ad campaign?


Real people/real coffee--seems like a good combination to me. Naturally some of the effectiveness of the campaign will depend on the people selected and their "presence" in whatever media they are featured.

I think this campaign is a way for Dunkin' to further separate itself from Starbucks, whose positioning seems to be more about the experience than the coffee. Dunkin' positioning is that it is all about the actual coffee. Real people seems like a very good way to communicate that positioning.

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Steve Montgomery, President, b2b Solutions, LLC

It's debatable on whether real customers make better and more compelling ads than actors do. However, in my opinion for a company and a brand such as Dunkin' Donuts, and with what they are selling, they might be better off to use "real" actors. "Real customers" can often be just a bit too "real" for consumption. Use professional actors but keep it "real!"

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David Biernbaum, Senior Marketing and Business Development Consultant, David Biernbaum Associates LLC

If you are trying to convince consumers that you have something that they wouldn't normally believe you have, then using "real" customers can work. Domino's has been doing that with its pizza relaunch, and even Microsoft tried it with Windows. I wouldn't think that Dunkin' would need that kind of convincing, but maybe they thought they did.

I'll say this, though: I'd rather have amateur actors that are genuinely enthused about the company than amateur ad creators that have no clue what they're doing, as in Quiznos.

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Nikki Baird, Managing Partner, RSR Research

Media advertising lost complete consumer trust years ago. Many consumers would say advertising is more for awareness and information.

I think actors as make believe doctors did the most damage. In our new world of social networking, product users are more believable than actors. Dunkin' is promoting one product, ice coffee, not brand building. This should have a positive impact.

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W. Frank Dell II, CMC, President, Dellmart & Company

Authenticity rather than aspiration resonates with Dunkin's consumer. Real People + Real Coffee = Real $

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Chuck Palmer, Vice President of Strategy, JohnRyan

I'm with Steven.

The "real" theme is critical to the Dunkin' brand positioning, and what better way is there to show you are "real" than by using "real" customers?

The issue here is authenticity--getting a real cup of coffee at a real price. The everyperson appeal of using customers instead of actors just demonstrates the company is serious about its brand and its message.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

Nikki, you crack me up. Check out Slate's take on the abominable Quiznos ads here.

Dunkin may have a winner here, as they did with the ads showing people being sucked into the coffee aisle in supermarkets.

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Cathy Hotka, Principal, Cathy Hotka & Associates

The key word here is "real." It is my friends telling me how good something is. Can there be a better referral than word of mouth from someone you can see as a friend? Domino's is doing it with their rebranding efforts. I believe them even though I have not tried the new product.

Stein Mart is the best example I can think of with success and failure using this method of "real people." Stein Mart was extremely successful using four real housewives, each telling how much they enjoy shopping at Stein Mart and how much they saved as a result. Then Stein Mart changed agencies. The new agency thought they had a better program that did not include the real housewives. The program was a failure. Sales dropped. They changed agencies again. I do not know if they returned to the successful agency; but the real housewives returned and sales increased.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

Have you ever been on a commercial shoot with "real" people? By the time all the takes are finished and the editing is done, they might as well be actors. That being said, there is value to people believing the "actors" are real customers. It is not a matter of the "real" people seeming less professional in the commercial. "Actors" can do a much better job of being that "real" person that viewers expect. The value is that the person has a name, therefore giving some credibility. It is nothing new. It is very effective in certain situations.

Being a heavy, heavy coffee drinker, I have concluded that the hype around the competitive situation in out-of-home coffee is just that, hype. Something for all of us to talk and write about. The apparent big players are Starbucks, DD and McD's. But, I doubt if they are the same customers. Without the growth of McD's frappuccino type drinks, the coffee business in McD's would be down. DD coffee business is very basic. They don't have the 10,000 combinations that Starbucks has. They don't encourage their customers to sit for hours and enjoy the ambiance.

If the target is Iced Coffee, DD's opportunity is to get the business from other than coffee soft drinks. Let's see what the "real" customers say.

For my own benefit, the one thing that will get me into DD are donuts that are considerably better than their current offering.

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

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