What’s Dunkin’ without Donuts in its name?

Discussion
Photo: Dunkin'
Sep 26, 2018
George Anderson

It’s not like no one saw this coming. Dunkin’ has officially announced that it is dropping “Donuts” from its name. The company with its well-known “America Runs on Dunkin’” tagline announced earlier this year that it planned to open around 30 new locations with just the Dunkin’ name on the banner.

Beginning in January, Dunkin’ will officially make the switch with packaging, the company’s website, social channels and advertising all featuring the new sans donuts logo. The chain will include the banner on all new and remodeled locations. While changing its name, Dunkin’ will hold onto its pink and orange colors in the same font it has used since 1973.

Dunkin’s move is part of a multiyear effort that began after CEO David Hoffman joined the company in 2016 after a 22-year career at McDonald’s.

“Our new branding is one of many things we are doing as part of our blueprint for growth to modernize the Dunkin’ experience for our customers. From our next generation restaurants, to our menu innovation, on-the-go ordering and value offerings, all delivered at the speed of Dunkin’, we are working to provide our guests with great beverages, delicious food and unparalleled convenience,” said Mr. Hoffman in a statement. “We believe our efforts to transform Dunkin’, while still embracing our incredible heritage, will keep our brand relevant for generations to come.”

In an interview with CNBC in July, Mr. Hoffman said changes taking place at Dunkin’ were intended to advance its position as a “beverage-led, on-the-go brand.” The company has emphasized its drink menu including Cold Brew Coffee, Nitro Coffee and Iced Teas.

While it is cutting donuts from its name, the doughy treats remain a significant part of the chain’s business. Dunkin’ is the leading retailer of doughnuts in the U.S. Earlier this year, the chain introduced its popular Donut Fries to store menus.

The chain saw its U.S. same-store sales increase 1.4 percent during the second quarter. In July, Mr. Hoffman said the results were “an early sign of progress” in Dunkin’s plan for growth as the company set a quarterly record for beverage sales. Its breakfast sandwich volume “more than offset” the decision earlier in the year to eliminate 10 items from Dunkin’s food menu.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will Dunkin’s name change help advance its strategy of creating an image for the company as a beverage-led, on-the-go brand? What is your assessment of how the company has handled the rebranding transition?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It’s a decision to leverage the company’s core strengths, and of course that’s good!"
"I don’t see this name change as a big deal because the company has been referring to itself as Dunkin’ for a while now, and so have its customers."
"The Dunkin’ font and colors are shorthand for the brain. Instantly recognized without the donuts."

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28 Comments on "What’s Dunkin’ without Donuts in its name?"


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Art Suriano
BrainTrust

I can see both sides of the argument. However, I don’t feel changing their name will have much benefit because Dunkin’ already has excellent recognition. They could still go through the changes they envision and begin expanding their menu as well as offering healthier items. Unless they are planning on getting rid of donuts altogether and that would be a colossal mistake, changing the name to Dunkin’ will only cost huge dollars and satisfy some egos.

Shakespeare said it best when he wrote, “What’s in a name?” How they brand their company, what changes they make internally with products and service, what their new stores will look like and how many stores they can remodel is most important. Changing the name outside of the short-term press they will receive will do very little to impact their business. In the end, customers won’t care one way or another.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I don’t see the name change as detrimental, mainly because most people already seem to refer to it as Dunkin’. It is also necessary to shift the focus away from donuts to allow the company to focus on other strengths such as its coffee, and its newer on-the-go ranges.

A name change only takes you so far, however. The proposition, experience and service are key to create differentiation and loyal customers.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Will the name change help? Not until my generation, and maybe my kid’s generation, dies out. For us, it will always stand for donuts. That said, I grew up in Boston and I don’t know that we ever called it by its full name — it was always Dunkies. They must have a pretty bleak set of expectations to want to walk away from their food and focus on competing in the beverage business. I don’t think you give up your leading benefit (donuts) to take a shot at a heavily competitive category like beverage on the go. Lots more McDonald’s than DD, at least here in the south.

Mark Heckman
BrainTrust

Marketers are inherently restless. If they are not fiddling with something, they are perceived not to be doing their job. Often this is the case with name changes to banners, products, and in some cases, like Dunkin’ Donuts, even the company itself. While I understand their desire to represent a broader customer experience and range of products beyond donuts, I can’t help but think they are simply having an “IHOB” moment. Sometimes inertia is a good thing.

Charles Dimov
Guest

All told, it seems like a well thought-out evolution. Like Starbucks, they are moving more significantly into the breakfast, sandwich and light food/snack area — not just donuts. My marketing brain says “good move.” However, Dunkin’ should expect a few months of snickering, pot shots from comedians and such. Also, be aware that there will be many patrons who will not be as enthusiastic about the name change. Strategically sound. Just don’t drop the “jelly” in the jelly-filled donuts! 😉

Trevor Sumner
Guest

Snickering and jokes keeps them in the public eye. That’s earned media reinforcing the rebrand effort. That’s a positive.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

There is really no change. Dunkin’ lost its Donuts a long time ago. The customer knows what Dunkin’ is and the name change is only catching up with the already well-established perception.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

It’s funny to me because all the years I lived in the Boston area, Dunkin’ was known for having the best coffee, while another local area chain (the name is lost on me at the moment) had the better donuts. So I don’t really see this as a new strategy, particularly. It’s a decision to leverage the company’s core strengths, and of course that’s good!

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Paula – Mister Donut?

Meaghan Brophy
BrainTrust
Meaghan Brophy
Senior Retail Writer
1 year 1 month ago

I’m on board with the switch. Donuts haven’t been a focus for Dunkin’ for years now — they cut back selection and no longer make them in-store. They’ve also put more health conscious items on their DD Smart menu. Rebranding as a beverage-led on-the-go brand just matches their name with their actions. As long as donuts stay on Dunkin’s menu, I think most customers won’t mind.

Al McClain
Staff

Seems to me it revitalizes the brand a bit and puts them in a better place to compete with Starbucks. Their new cups also look a bit hipper to me. The risky part is getting rid of donuts, even if they aren’t really getting rid of them. Another coffee and donut chain (Tim Horton’s?) might sneak in there and grab some of the donut business. And, donuts might not be “in” right now, but they could make a comeback. Anyone remember what happened to bacon?

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Dunkin’ is already known as beverage-led and on-the-go. When people think of Dunkin’, it’s usually about a coffee run, not donuts (but they’re certainly a treat as well). Rebranding value comes at a time when Dunkin’ continues to take advantage of their mobile solutions, loyalty programs and online prepay options. The DD Perks program may change to DPerks, and there will be a bit of a blip to manage this change as part of its blueprint for growth. But at almost 10,000 stores in the U.S., they are on every corner and that’s their largest billboard — and their franchisee led business is #3 on the Entrepreneur Franchise 500.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

It’s the right move. There are many people who already refer to the chain as Dunkin’. I think this is a safe change that also offers them the opportunity of extending the brand to add and feature items to draw current and new customers.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Like Paula I grew up in Massachusetts albeit at the other end of the state. Dunkin’ coffee was what we ran on in the grocery business. The menu then was limited to coffee and donuts but over time the menu has expanded and contracted.

The shortening of its name to Dunkin’ allows the company to have a brand that is not linked to a single product category without in any way lessening the value of the category. As noted in the article this change started several years ago. It will have no negative impact.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

The Dunkin’ font and colors are shorthand for the brain. Instantly recognized without the donuts. Dunkin’ is quirky and memorable, deploying a fun and carefree attitude. Tremendous job of transitioning Dunkin’ into a quick coffee pickup place that even has donuts. Very modern, yet retro.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet. A line from Romeo and Juliet that rings true today.

We are seeing rampant rebrandings across the retail and services segments, to move to more of a brand portfolio and lifestyle focus. By just calling the company “Dunkin'” really doesn’t change much, as the company has been leveraging the shortened name for some time. Perhaps the food industry’s moves to a more healthier offering are what is driving the company to drop the “Donuts” part, even if that is how the company earned their stripes.

Regardless the company has the scale, the storefronts and name recognition. Now is the time to expand, diversify and modernize their food offerings beyond donuts.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

I know people who are fanatical about Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and breakfast offerings, donuts included. They always say they’re making a stop at Dunkin’.

I don’t see this name change as a big deal because the company has been referring to itself as Dunkin’ for a while now, and so have its customers. The name Dunkin’ is young and fun, it makes sense to go with it.

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

In this multi-touchpoint world, a “simple” name change is a major undertaking but one that can pay off for the same reason. Even negative buzz benefits Dunkin’ during the transition as it drives awareness for the new moniker. Removing the “donuts” limitation may drive some consumers to revisit the locations out of curiosity, just to see what’s changed. I find it interesting that local coffee/beverage shops are still opening and some are thriving, including a new multi-location concept in my area that is wicking customers away from Starbucks and others. Clearly, Dunkin’ can’t stay still and a more broad-based name change is a needed evolution.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

That Dunkin’ would become focused on more than donuts is smart business. But losing the key name attractors that draws consumers into their shops? A very poor move.

This seems driven by neat or theoretically neat “brand alignment” hoo-hah. Brands, and consumer minds, don’t work that way.

I understand that WITH Donut in their name their business has already made the change they wanted. Why change what works? Looks like bureaucracy at work or a desire to communicate with investors — not driven by any true consumer value in the name change.

That is worrisome. Because consumers need consistent, long-term reliance on brand names that don’t change.

All that said, the Weight Watchers name change/logo re-work is far far more destructive. So I think Dunkin’ will do OK. But it’s not a smart move.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

Since DD is a 100 percent franchise organization and has no front-line contact with customers, I have to ask one question. What do the franchisees think of the name change? For one they are the ones that are going to have to pay for all of the new signage. If I were a franchisee I would be voting to keep the old name. I say money spent, nothing gained.

Shelley E. Kohan
BrainTrust

The name with or without Donuts will not matter with the target market. Dropping actual donuts from the menu (which they are not doing) would be a grave mistake. From a marketing perspective, it will be a fun way to connect with the customers and create buzz over the next few months. However, since dropping the name will not change the fundamental business strategy to what they are currently on the road to achieve, I would question the expense at such a significant change. With same store sales at only 1.4 percent for Q2 compared to total retail sales growth at 4.4 percent, investing the money into stores and strengthening the store portfolio may drive more sales than a name change that is neutral among the target market.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Changing from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC was a good move …

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

The move from DD to D is just one move on the chess board. The intention to evolve the brand promise is now stated clearly. And that is a good thing. It’s a move to attract new customers and be relevant to more people during more hours of the day. They will of course have to test their way to their new model, but that is the very definition of evolution — the ability to adapt. Thumbs up!

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Restless marketing indeed. Well at least it may not be a transition to something even wilder and respects the main brand recognition. Naming is hard, but ever wonder how so much money can be spent to come up with so few words?… (Ok and a font, and some colors.)… Bet this was a million dollar endeavor to come up with dropping one word.

Trevor Sumner
Guest

This is a good and safe move. With the anti-sugar movement in full swing, “Donuts” in your name is a liability. “Donuts” is an explicit and repeated reminder that puts into question the health of all the items. It is a distraction. Very wise call and bringing such media attention is helping the rebrand’s focus on other products as well. Great earned media and a big win.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
BrainTrust

I like the rebranding segue. In the words of Charles Revlon, “In the factory we make cosmetics, at the counter we sell hope.” For a long term DD made coffee & donuts. However, at the counter it sold start-the-day or pick-me-up “treats.” Now the treat options have been expanded with little pushback or consumer confusion. The name change is a great vehicle to expand its umbrella & keep on running.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Dunkin’ is more than just donuts. And it’s not like they are changing the main part of the name. If they changed the name from Dunkin’ to Bob, well then that’s another story. No, Dunkin’ is the brand. Donuts is just a descriptor. So, they won’t lose the brand identity. By the way, the official name for Starbucks is Starbucks Coffee Company. How many times do you hear people say, “Let’s go to Starbucks Coffee.” No, they just say, “Let’s go to Starbucks.” So… “Let’s go to Dunkin’!”

Christopher P. Ramey
BrainTrust

Donuts will increasingly decrease as a part of their total revenue. The term had to go.

Management has a new vision. We can surmise their average sale will increase dramatically over the next couple years as they shed the <$.99 lead category.

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Braintrust
"It’s a decision to leverage the company’s core strengths, and of course that’s good!"
"I don’t see this name change as a big deal because the company has been referring to itself as Dunkin’ for a while now, and so have its customers."
"The Dunkin’ font and colors are shorthand for the brain. Instantly recognized without the donuts."

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