There was a time when Dunkin’ Donuts was all about its doughnuts. The doughnuts, if you recall.
Responsibility for making the doughnuts fell to Fred the Baker, a mustachioed everyman who rose before daybreak, singularly focused on satisfying America’s breakfast craving for sugary baked goods.
This was Fred’s calling.
He even had a mantra: “Time to make the doughnuts,” he’d chant.
And, as Fred’s corporate overseers boasted in those days, Dunkin’ Donuts offered “up to 52 varieties made fresh day and night,” greatly outpacing your local supermarket.
But that was a different time.
Today, Dunkin’ Donuts is locked in a nationwide popularity contest with Starbucks and independent coffeehouses, aggressively competing for the loyalty of an increasingly calorie-conscious customer base concerned with staying fit, not just caffeinated. Doughnuts — while delicious — connote neither.
To that end, the Massachusetts-based chain is deploying a new marketing strategy. Its first vestiges appeared this week in Pasadena, Calif., where a new Dunkin’ Donuts storefront emerged bearing a new name and slogan:
Dunkin’. Coffee and more.
Eighty-six the doughnuts! (Or, rather, “Donuts.”)
The branding experiment in Pasadena marks the start of a trial period during which the company will gauge customer response and evaluate whether to take the new name nationwide. The review is expected to stretch well into next year, the company said.
There are more than 11,300 Dunkin’ Donuts stores worldwide. Most — about 8,500 — are spread across 41 states. The 3,200 international locations span 36 countries. Coffeehouse giant Starbucks operates in 70 countries, with more than 24,000 stores total.
“Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader,” the company said in a statement announcing the trial run. “This test coincides with our company’s plans to develop a new restaurant image designed to offer guests unparalleled convenience.” The statement did not elaborate on what that may entail.
The shift appears in line with remarks made by company chairman and chief executive Nigel Travis during last week’s earnings call, according to the trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News. Travis spoke about Dunkin’s efforts to position itself as an “on-the-go brand,” streamlining menus and designing new restaurant layouts that emphasize speed. The doughnut-maker has seen positive revenue growth in the past year, with its stock price climbing more than $8 a share.
According to a related marketing website, there’s a concerted effort to brand the company as a trusted, indispensable mainstay.
From the branding playbook:
We created an always-on media strategy of aggressive news outreach and creative storytelling to promote new Dunkin’ Donuts menu items, technologies and operations initiatives. On a monthly basis, we implemented buzz-worthy online and offline consumer campaigns surrounding new product launches and key seasonal moments, earning regular feature coverage in the most important national print, broadcast and digital outlets. … The team also kept a steady pulse on the issues facing the quick service restaurant industry, helping to position the brand positively regarding menu labeling, sustainability, nutritional choices and more.
The doughnut-maker noted that the name change shouldn’t come as a big surprise to its customers. “We have been referring to ourselves simply as Dunkin’ in our advertising for more than a decade,” the statement said, “ever since we introduced our ‘America Runs on Dunkin’ ’ campaign.”
The company said it will introduce new storefront signage at an unspecific number of additional restaurants later this year. It will be late 2018, the company said, before any final branding decisions are made.