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Dunkin’ loses its donuts: A move that says a lot about coffee market today

Call it a sign of our ever-quickening time-challenged lives or maybe even a symbol that the ever-widening American public is changing its eating habits, but regardless of the societal cause, Dunkin’ Donuts is turning its back on Homer Simpson’s favorite food.

The brand is losing its “Donuts” and simply becoming the name it refers to itself in its longtime catchphrase of “Dunkin’,” as in America runs on Dunkin’. And that is a fairly true statement, but this brand clearly knows that to remain relevant in the morning rush, they needed to modify their path.

In its Tuesday announcement, the ubiquitous on-the-go coffee-and-something brand said it’s been on a first-name-only basis with its customers anyway for a long time, as most just call the chain, Dunkin’ anyways. So might as well lose the “Donuts.”

But make no mistake about it, it goes a lot deeper than that. This is all about market positioning and Dunkin’s already intense efforts to become the “premier beverage-led, on-the-go brand.” Hence, the chain made much ado about its “kinda new” name with an actual “unveiling” at the brand’s Global Franchisee Convention this week.

The new branding officially takes place in January and is intended to strongly convey the company’s focus on coffee, while retaining its traditional “perky” personality with its pink and orange brand colors.

Beginning the first of the year, the company said its new branding will appear on packaging, as well as advertising, web and social channels. All new and remodeled stores will also get the Dunkin’ only doin’s on their signage in the U.S. and eventually worldwide, the company said.

In fact, over the past year it’s been testing the first-name-only logo “extensively,” – the kind of focus group this website’s editor would have loved to take part in  just to hear the arguments over that ever-lingering question: “How much is that ‘Donut’ really worth to the world anymore?”

But all kidding aside, this is very serious business. The proof of that comes from some of the comments made by the brand’s leadership over what we’re sure is a multi-million dollar rebranding effort. In other words, you don’t take changing your name lightly when you’ve got nearly 13,000 stores in 46 countries. It’s costly and it has to have a very good and very business-perpetuating reason to even consider.

“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,” said Dunkin’ Brands CEO and U.S. President David Hoffmann. “From our next-generation restaurants, to our menu innovation, on-the-go ordering and value offerings … we believe our efforts to transform Dunkin’, while still embracing our incredible heritage, will keep our brand relevant for generations to come.”

Or as CMO Tony Weisman puts it, “By simplifying and modernizing our name, while still paying homage to our heritage, we have an opportunity to create an incredible new energy for Dunkin’, both in and outside our stores. We are bringing the iconic name Dunkin’ to the forefront in a bold way that brings to life how we refill optimism with each cup and bring fun, joy and delight to our customers each and every day,”

The new branding was created with the company’s new  branding agencies JKR, BBDO New York and Arc Worldwide. Other recent initiatives –aside from the aforementioned emphasis on beverage like cold brew and nitro coffees and ice tea — have included:

  • Menu simplification.
  • Innovative new products, like Donut Fries.
  • Increased On-the-Go Mobile Ordering channels.
  • Next-gen design.

The “big mama” in those efforts is, according to the brand, the new store design which is a well-thought-out concept designed to meet the needs of consumers increasingly pushed to do more in less time.

“Fast” is the operative word here and may be a key for this longtime brand to really make a run on that aforementioned “green-and-white branded” coffee shop around the block.

The key in-store elements include an eight-headed tap system for cold beverages encouraging crew members to serve guests like bartenders, a glass bakery case putting donuts in the forefront within arm’s reach of guests, and more prominent and engaging mobile-order pick up areas, as well as the first-ever mobile order drive-thru lane to allow mobile users to speed past the line.

The company is not turning its back on the sweet, but empty-hearted breakfast offerings just because its losing them from the logo. Dunkin’ remains the No. 1 doughnut retailer in the U.S., with close to 3 billion  of the critters sold annually across the planet.

In fact, each Dunkin’ restaurant is still “required” to make the top sellers both locally and system-wide front and center daily so customers don’t have to look far or even accidentally overlook (for the trying-to-be-health-minded) the gooey treats their inner “Homers” want so badly.


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