Change happens. Brands must adapt.
As a company’s offerings evolve, a brand should keep up and not perpetuate a narrower or outdated image.
Weight Watchers becomes WW (health)
Starbucks Coffee becomes Starbucks (more than coffee)
Apple Computer becomes Apple (obvious)
Kentucky Fried Chicken becomes KFC (downplay ‘fried’)
Boston Chicken becomes Boston Market (broader menu)
Jo-Ann Fabrics becomes Joann (whatever they are, not just fabrics, apparently)
In these cases, the ‘new’ names clarified the company’s position and formalized names already commonly used.
Dunkin’ Donuts started as a coffee and doughnut joint around 1950 in Massachusetts. It was customary in those giddy post-war years to actually ‘sit on a stool’ at a ‘counter’, eat a doughnut served on a ‘plate’ and ‘dunk’ it in a heavy ‘ceramic mug’ of coffee from time to time. Ah, those were innocent times with a cavalier attitude toward carbs. You can’t really dunk while driving. No one dunks. It is a meaningless word.
From these humble beginnings it has now joined the name game and just announced a halving of its name to now just ‘Dunkin’’.
Dunkin’ hold-the-Donuts gets 60% of their sales from beverages, mostly coffee, but they want more. Don’t worry, they will still sell their irresistible (or irresistable, depending on which website version you buy into) doughnuts.
(In fact, Dunkin’ has been using largely the same menu for years, from time to time adding things like the healthier ‘DD Smart’ offerings, which will now likely have to be just ‘D-Smart’, which is a Turkish satellite TV company and no doubt trademarked. These things do get complicated. But we digress.)
The question is, is this a major step forward? Is it worth the trouble and expense? By itself, does Dunkin’ mean anything? Is the value proposition really changed?
Considering that their locations, menu offerings, awesome circa-1973 logo font and color and pretty much everything else is staying the same*, it seems that this may be a very expensive PR play, nothing more.
*apparently display fixtures will be undergoing a makeover.
Dunkin’ has long used ‘America Runs on Dunkin’’ as their tagline, and in their native New England, they apparently are fondly known as ‘Dunkin’’ or even ‘Dunkies’.
However, in the Midwest or Southeast I don’t recall ever referring to this chain as just ‘Dunkin’’ (or hearing anyone else do so).
It sounds a bit awkward and contrived, like when Radio Shack, in a last heaving gasp for survival, wanted to be known as ‘The Shack’. (it’s painfully true).
Considering the vast franchisee-borne expense involved in re-outfitting 12,000+ international outlets, as well as rebranding pretty much every sign, coffee mug, drive-thru kiosk, menu, placemat, napkin, rest room signs and heaven only knows how many other things, you have to wonder how the calculations worked on this at some point being profit-positive. (and this follows the relatively recent ‘Coffee & More’ signage).
And ultimately, profit is the point.
It comes down to whether the absence of the word ‘Donuts’ will subconsciously, Jedi-style, draw new users in for non-doughnut beverage offerings as they drive past, or persuade current customers that it’s also ok to buy those other things on the menu.
Penetration vs buy rate, the primal existential growth question.
In the case of Weight Watchers, Boston Chicken and Jo-Ann Fabrics, a name change seems justified to align with a broader brand premise. For Apple, Starbucks and KFC, arguably it formalizes what people already know, lets the CMO sleep at night knowing the brand is aligned, and is more of a check-the-box move.
Dunkin’ has tested this idea for more than a year so apparently the equation works.
I’m not so sure.