Restaurant MARKETER OF THE YEAR: Dunkin' Donuts

The Brand that Feeds

The franchise bucks the specialty coffee trend

Dunkin’ donuts marketing in 2007 was as satisfying as that first sip of coffee in the morning. From the ubiquitous orange-and-pink signage to a tagline that actually means something, this New England-based company gave consumers back their cuppa joe.

No standing in line wondering what a nonfat decaf latte coco mocho is. You walk into a Dunkin’ Donuts and you come out with a cup of coffee. No venti. No ho-hum, either: The brand delivers on its promise with good coffee.

Besides, “who doesn’t want a doughnut?” says Frances Allen, the company’s brand marketing officer.

When Allen came on board in June, she inherited the tagline that’s gotten the brand so much attention: “America runs on Dunkin’.”

“Most people expect CMOs to come in and change the advertising,” Allen says. “This was so bang-on, I was thrilled that I didn’t need to do that. Bang-on in terms of what the brand stands for. It has a current cultural context, a straightforward transparency.” 

Honestly, it’s the honesty that wins hearts. Even Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys research consultancy, raves about the brand: “They’ve done such a good job,” he sighs into the phone. “There’s been a kind of purity to what they’ve done, and they did it in an extraordinarily believable way.”

One of the drivers of Dunkin’s success, Passikoff says, is the variety the restaurant offers. He adds, “They’ve always been very careful about how and when they’ve launched campaigns for various beverages and food products, so it hasn’t seemed like brand advertising, product advertising, brand advertising, product advertising. There’s a kind of seamless sense about the planning.”

The company is also continuing its strategic partnerships with spokeswoman Rachael Ray, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi’s SoBe and JetBlue.

“We are evolving from a warm New England company into a national chain,” Allen says. “We’re looking for large area developers to strengthen our network as we go west.”

Expansion into the West and South shouldn’t be a problem for Dunkin’, which already has stores in 40 percent of the country, and has 98 percent awareness, according to Allen. Part of that reach is due to its effective TV and radio advertising strategy, which Allen says will be expanding online.

And this year, Dunkin’ beat Starbucks in the Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index. Passikoff says Dunkin’ Donuts’ positioning was “anti-Starbucks without saying it.”

Allen won’t crow about toppling such a rival. “It’s gratifying to be recognized,” she says. “We’re certainly resonating with a lot of people.

“Our philosophy is to create quality meals quickly, without pretense. That’s what Dunkin’ is all about. People live jam-packed lives, but they still want high-quality food and beverages without a lot of fuss.” That Dunkin’ Donuts understands that shines through in every part of its marketing — a slam dunk for the brand, if you will.

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