Does Dunkin’ need donuts?

Discussion
Photo: Pasadena Business Now
Aug 08, 2017
Tom Ryan

Dunkin’ Donuts plans to test an abbreviated Dunkin’ slogan and signage, beginning with a store last week in Pasadena, CA, to help make the chain better known foremost for its beverages.

The beverage emphasis includes not only hot coffee where it battles Starbucks and other regional players, but also iced and frozen drinks. Strong successes this summer have included the launch of Frozen Dunkin’ Coffee as well as S’mores flavored coffee.

“While we remain the number one retailer of donuts in the country, as part of our efforts to reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader, we will be testing signage in a few locations that refer to the brand simply as Dunkin’,” according to a company statement.

In 2016, the company launched a six-part strategy to drive growth by positioning Dunkin’ as “a to-go, coffee beverages brand” although the positioning earlier this year shifted to “a beverage-led, On-the-Go brand.”

While still including donuts, Dunkin’ Donuts’ food menu has also expanded over the years to include sandwiches and wraps as well as muffins and other baked goods.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ statement noted that the chain has been referring to itself simply as Dunkin’ in some advertising since the launch of the “America Runs on Dunkin” campaign in the mid-2000s.

The statement also said the test “coincides with our company’s plans to develop a new restaurant image designed to offer guests unparalleled convenience.”

On its second-quarter conference call last month, Dunkin’ Brands Group officials noted that convenience is coming from having drive-thrus as a dominant feature at nearly all openings and remodels going forward; its DD Perks loyalty program that includes offers, rewards and access to mobile ordering; and making curbside delivery an option for all franchisees. A new store format planned for a national rollout in the second half of 2018 is expected to be ”transformational from a design, equipment and technology perspective.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more pros than cons in removing “Donuts” from the Dunkin’ Donuts name? What key questions must the rebranding test answer?

Braintrust
"Evolving to a logo or icon will allow Dunkin’ way more flexibility and growth potential in the future. I’m all for it."
"Dunkin' is already an established colloquial moniker for Dunkin' Donuts. Embracing it should do no harm."
"[Dunkin's] strategy has lagged behind Starbucks for years, especially when it comes to “unparalleled convenience.”"

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19 Comments on "Does Dunkin’ need donuts?"

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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

As ubiquitous as “donuts” are as part of the Dunkin’ brand, at this stage of the company’s maturity I see little risk in removing the “donuts” moniker. As described in the article, removing donuts from the name provides management more flexibility in expanding offerings and emphasizing offerings that are outside of the donut domain. Furthermore, the trend toward healthier diets plays well in the decision to de-emphasize donuts. I think it’s a thoughtful and interesting move.

Adrian Weidmann
BrainTrust

The rebranding of Dunkin’ is timely and smart. Today’s shoppers are more aware of their food choices and sources. Donuts, while tasty, are not representative of today’s cultural landscape. In order to stay relevant in today’s conversation and shopper consciousness, Dunkin’ is wise to rebrand. (Hopefully, they keep “makin’ the donuts!”)

Lyle Bunn (Ph.D. Hon)
BrainTrust

The Dunkin’ slogan has been dropping the donuts for some time which positions the brand as providing a wider of range of food options. This is a good branding trend. Dunkin’ should take some pages from the Tim Horton playbook where digital menu and promotion boards enabled the testing and rapid roll-out of light meal options (soup, sandwich, salads) which gained store loyalty across day parts. The rebranding test question is, “do you see us as offering more … yet?”

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

My guess is that nobody will notice. At the same time, Dunkin’ Donuts should be looking closely at sales as they do this in a limited area — don’t rush into it.

Phil Masiello
BrainTrust

It will be an interesting test of brand icon vs. name. From a consumer perspective, I think the colors, the font and the icons are more recognizable than the name. Purely conjecture, but I think people refer to the brand as “going to the Dunkin'” more than adding the donuts. I think brevity of name could be a positive.

The brand has evolved beyond donuts, into a multiple day-part food retailer. Execution of this rebranding to help get that across to a new era of customers is key to its success.

The key questions are: Do sales go up or down? Do consumers respond to the rebranding? Do consumers “get” that the chain is more than just donuts and coffee? Is this rebranding going to help them better engage with their existing customer? Will this rebranding reach new consumers?

It will be interesting to keep an eye on this.

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust

Agreed Phil. I see this as a move on Dunkin’s part to eventually whittle down to a recognizable logo (a la Nike’s swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches, Apple and even Starbucks). Could this hurt sales in the short-term? Maybe. But probably not. Evolving to a logo or icon will allow Dunkin’ way more flexibility and growth potential in the future. I’m all for it.

Al McClain
Staff

Some of this brand positioning is above my pay grade. Is removing “Donuts” from the name supposed to make us forget that they sell donuts? In another era, Kentucky Fried Chicken changed itself to KFC presumably because they didn’t want customers reminded that their chicken is fried. Deep fat fryers and batter fried chicken visible from the cash registers and the smell of the place weren’t enough of a reminder? Regarding DD, my wife commented, what does the name Dunkin’ even mean without Donuts attached to it? But, it’s evidently all perception and PR.

Art Suriano
BrainTrust

I’m curious to learn how many customers don’t buy coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts because of the word “Donuts.” They have always had a different customer than the Starbucks crowd, which has been good for them. There’s nothing wrong with revamping their stores, new design, adding a product, etc., but I’d opt for a new campaign and tagline rather than taking on the expense and risk of changing their name. What happens 10 years from now if donuts once again become popular?

Lee Kent
BrainTrust

It seems like the advertising I recall only says Dunkin’ anyway so I would think it would make little difference. The interesting thing is that they state in the article, “While we remain the number one retailer of donuts in the country, as part of our efforts to reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader, we will be testing signage in a few locations that refer to the brand simply as Dunkin’.”

It almost seems like they are moving away from their ace in the hole, saying that they want to be known as a beverage-led brand. Oh, well, the name change is likely not going to make any difference. For my 2 cents.

Phil Rubin
BrainTrust
13 days 1 hour ago

It likely won’t hurt to remove “Donuts” but Dunkin’ has more foundational problems than having “Donuts” in its name. Its strategy has lagged behind Starbucks for years, especially when it comes to “unparalleled convenience.” That gap is a real challenge, as Starbucks just cited that 9 percent of its customers are now using its mobile pickup offering.

It’s interesting that Dunkin’ suggests a “new restaurant image … [will offer] … unparalleled convenience.” It will take much more than image to achieve that unless there is a truly customer-centric business strategy prioritizing the customer experience rather than other aspects of its operation.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

Kentucky Fried Chicken tried this tack with KFC. It has taken about six years for that to start to work — though the blame for that lies more with the operations than the brand name. Dunkin’ is already an established colloquial moniker for Dunkin’ Donuts. Embracing it should do no harm. Even McDonald’s has grudgingly embraced “Mickey D’s” to some small extent. What will do the franchise damage is to focus totally on beverages. Even Dunkin’ still implies that there is something available to dunk.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

I only see an upside. America runs on Dunkin’ has been the company’s mantra for awhile. I seriously doubt the abbreviation will diminish the image. On the other hand this new umbrella (which is not really new) will permit the brand to expand offerings which fit its expertise and consumer demands.

Naomi K. Shapiro
BrainTrust

Dunkin’ Donuts should not drop the dunkin’ or the donuts — both being iconic parts of their identification. I suggest that they add one word, “AND,” to represent and remind customers of everything they offer: Dunkin’ AND Donuts…. or, Dunkin & Donuts. Clean, neat and full of promise.

Dave Wendland
BrainTrust

Personally, I would not have dropped the “donuts.” Rather I would have added a symbol that implied the chain offers more — such as a plus sign or an “&More.”

Will consumers care? I doubt it. They know that Dunkin’ sells donuts. But will it generate a measurable sales lift? I also doubt it.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

These kinds of efforts are always made to sound big. But it’s unlikely to do much to help Dunkin’ Donuts increase sales and profits. And there’s risk that it diffuses some brand equity (that part Byron Sharp calls “mental availability” through distinctive assets).

My prediction? In three year’s we’ll give this one a big “meh.” Yup. They tweaked their name. Nope. Didn’t do much else for them.

For a case study, we need merely look at how KFC has been lurching from brand theory to brand theory for years now.

Perhaps efforts like this reflect the truth that marketing departments and executives obsess far more about brand than consumers do. We always need to take care to look at these things from a consumer point of view. Will this matter to consumers? Meh.

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust

Consumers change and so must brands. Dunkin’ Donuts is a good lesson for marketers not to burden themselves with a category that may not always be hot. Where would Best Buy be if it had branded itself “Best TV?”

The lesson is that brand names structured around categories, buzz phrases or cultural stamps are bound to be problematic. From Cut-Rate X, to X One and X America, to Discount X and Xs.

Have a long-term vision and choose your brand carefully.

Brian Kelly
Guest
12 days 22 hours ago

Plenty of remarks, so not much new to add. Eliminating “fried chicken” didn’t seem to harm KFC.

And then there is this. I see the broad-national take out coffee world as Starbucks v Dunkin’ Donuts. And both enjoy entrenched loyalists. They also reflect the macro division currently afflicting the US. Starbucks tends to be urbane while Dunkin’ Donuts tends to populist.

While I tend to agree with comments that this is much ado about nothing, I am intrigued by the entrenched Dunkin’ loyalists. The “blue collar” Dunkin’ loyalists. Will they see the brand abandoning them? Will they think the brand is going up market to get a better customer in the store? Does the elimination of “donuts” suggest an irrelevant wellness play, with a “don’t tell me what to eat, dammit” reaction?
Could be an exercise in over think, but I do wonder in these overly sensitive times in which retail brands have taken a noble stand and it has harmed the top line.

Did Dunkin’ Donuts speak with its loyalists and receive permission to alter the brand?

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust

So many consumers refer to them simply as Dunkin’ today that this will likely go unnoticed by most people. At the same time I suspect that everyone recognizes the double-D logo for Dunkin’ Donuts just as quickly as they recognize the double arches for McDonald’s or the Starbucks logo. Once you drop the Donuts, do you keep the DD logo or develop something new? Logo recognition is key but just calling yourself Dunkin’ doesn’t quite fit with the current logo, does it?

Kenneth Leung
BrainTrust

They are already know as Dunkin’ with their line “America runs on Dunkin'” without the donuts. They do offer other hot sandwiches already and people go in to buy just coffee and I can see them going to other drink categories if needed.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Evolving to a logo or icon will allow Dunkin’ way more flexibility and growth potential in the future. I’m all for it."
"Dunkin' is already an established colloquial moniker for Dunkin' Donuts. Embracing it should do no harm."
"[Dunkin's] strategy has lagged behind Starbucks for years, especially when it comes to “unparalleled convenience.”"

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