Dunkin’ Donuts rebrand: Big hit or big mistake?

  • Dunkin’ Donuts rebrand: Big hit or big mistake?

Dunkin’ Donuts rebrand: Big hit or big mistake?


Dunkin’ Donuts rebrand: Big hit or big mistake?

Rebranding can be risky

Dunkin’ Donuts, one of the biggest donuts chains out there, announced in September 2018 that it would drop half of its name and shift focus. Starting in January 2019, all ads, packages, signage and social media accounts will use the Dunkin’ name. For such an iconic brand, this could be a good or bad thing.

Uncertainty abounds

For a brand that once used the tagline, “Time to make the donuts,” Dunkin’ Donuts, a 68-year-old company, recognizes it’s necessary to keep things fresh in order to keep pace with the competition. While Dunkin’ will keep its colors, typeface and still serve donuts, the move seems to say more about the beverage market than pastry. In the process, the company aims to reposition itself and modernize its customer experience.

Company executives insist the name change isn’t a big deal; after all, its long-established “America Runs on Dunkin’” advertising campaign doesn’t even mention the “Donuts.”

Others question the big change. When consumers heard, they jumped on social media to voice their concern and Laura Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing consultant, called it a potential mistake. She believes removing the name affects the brand identity and “donuts” definitely differentiated the company from other coffee competitors like Starbucks and McDonald’s.

Further, Ries argues that “Dunkin’” eventually will not mean anything to those who didn’t grow up with “Dunkin’ Donuts.” She points to rebranding done by other brands such as KFC and DQ. Younger consumers, she says, do not know the letters come from Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dairy Queen.

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In fact, in 2016, 15 years after rebranding as KFC, the company had to publicly combat an online rumor that it was forced to take “chicken” out of the name because it wasn’t serving real chicken. The chain had claimed it moved away from “fried” for more potential health-conscious customers. Truth is, a rebrand was required because it wasn’t about either of those words; it was a trademark issue regarding “Kentucky.”

Nonetheless, Ries notes using simply “Dunkin’” may also have an international impact on the brand because, “Specific words are easier for people to remember and conjure emotional connections,” she said. “Having ‘Donuts’ in the name is also easier for people in overseas markets who may not know what “Dunkin’” means.”

Rebranding is a big deal

The decision to rebrand can’t be taken lightly. Companies have to weigh the good and possible bad and recognize the impact overall. Having a strategy in place for the process is vital because it helps minimize the risk. The Street pointed out Dunkin’ Donuts’ “talented team” did their homework, “The executives are incredibly attuned to their customers. . .The rebranding reflects that management understands how to approach the customer in a pragmatic way. Management understands that speed is the way to go in order to sell discretionary goods in the digital age. Consumers can buy with more speed across industries, and they can do the same with their coffee.”

That’s exactly what Tony Weisman, chief marketing officer for the chain, stressed about the shorter, snappier name: it will “create an incredible new energy for Dunkin’, both in and outside our stores.”

Before messing with its moniker, Dunkin’ Donuts tested the waters. On the East Coast, where the company is based, the new Dunkin’ concept was rolled out in 50 stores, “not necessarily as a permanent change.” A company statement at the time noted it didn’t plan “to make any decisions regarding the branding until later this year.” Meanwhile, in New York City, customers got to try out the “store of the future.”

Taking steps to rebrand

For whatever reason a company may be considering a rebrand, it’s important to approach the process in a way that will yield the most successful result. Recognize why you are considering a rebrand, do your research and put together a plan.

Need some help? Don’t worry! At T.E. Digital, we are experts in branding and know how important it is to your identity.  Our team can take the guesswork out of the process. Contact us to discuss ways a branding or rebranding strategy can work for you.

About the Author:

Jared S. Smith ‐the Co‐founder and Chief Executive Officer for Talent Evolution. He brings several years of experience in providing social media marketing solutions to clients in a variety of industries. He is passionate about marketing and helping small business owners make sense of the new world of online marketing. Jared provides expertise in all aspects of online marketing.

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