Pitch Brief: Dunkin’ Donuts Puts U.S. Creative up for Review

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By Max

If you haven’t seen Dunkin’ Donuts in the news, you have a good excuse. Larger socio-political machinations have been hogging the spotlight over the past year, pushing other stories under the radar. 

But America’s most recognizable donut purveyor has gone through a series of staggering changes that have landed it in the pages of Forbes, MoneyWatch, CNN and the Washington Post throughout 2017.

In the wake of the roller-coaster ride this brand has been on, a creative review is unsurprising. They’ve tried everything else.

dunkin' donuts brand analysis



Dunkin’s 2017: In the dough or in the hole

Dunkin’ began 2017 on a high note, with parent company Dunkin’ Brands stock trading at an all-time high thanks to earnings and sales that surpassed Wall Street’s forecasts. They even looked primed to challenge the coffee behemoth Starbucks, introducing nitrogen-infused cold brew coffee and fancier flavors in both coffee and pastries.

Jumping on the high-tech bandwagon, Dunkin’ introduced on-the-go ordering in 2016, and the DD Perks Rewards program, available on mobile app, echoing moves by Starbucks and McDonald’s to make fast food faster.

But by the end of Q1 2017, the company reported flat comparable sales, prompting the brand to create a six-part plan to grow revenue. A few of their efforts included:

• Streamlining their menu in 300 stores, with the goal of simplifying restaurant operations, reducing staff turnover and improving customer service.

• Getting even more technical by partnering with Waze, a navigation app, to allow users to order ahead at a Dunkin’ store along their routes.

• Targeting millennials with “Dunkin’ Punch” and frozen coffee, as well as removing artificial ingredients.


August 2017 saw possibly the most startling experiment, when a new storefront appeared in Pasadena, California showing off a new name - and a new direction: Dunkin’. Coffee and more.

In announcing the change, the company said “This test coincides with our company’s plans to develop a new restaurant image designed to offer guests unparalleled convenience,” and, evidently, far fewer donuts.

The problem, as Forbes contributor Denise Lee Yohn was quick to point out, is that in dropping the “Donuts,” Dunkin’ dropped its primary differentiator.


coffee and breakfast trends market research



Journey to the Center of the Donut Hole

The creative team taking over will have its work cut out for it. The trajectory already outlined by the company is strong - coffee-centric and technologically forward. But that’s really just enough to give Dunkin’ parity with its main competition: Starbucks. To stand out, Dunkin’ has to carve out a relevant niche for itself.

So let’s look at what Dunkin’ does best:

  • 1. Many consumers prefer their milder coffee (compared with ‘Charbucks’ bolder flavors).
  • 2.  They compete on price, appealing to bargain hunters.


And, what Dunkin’ clearly wants to do: Appeal to millennials.

They’ve already made great strides towards that goal (even releasing beer brewed with Dunkin’ Donuts Dark Roast Coffee in December 2017). But there’s one segment of millennials that Dunkin’s new creative agency might want to get to know better:


Millennial Breakfast Lovers

In our new Pitch Brief, we looked at the segment of Millennials who are most enthusiastic about breakfast - to the point where they agree that “Breakfast is more important than lunch or dinner.” These are consumers who actively interact with food brands on social media, love trying new drinks, and run on quick, on-the-go breakfast staples.


millennial breakfast consumers infographic


They’re primed and ready to become Dunkin’s new core consumer group, and you can find out how to reach them in our Dunkin’ Donuts Pitch Brief.

Get your pitch brief here!

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Topics: Knowledge; Infographic; New Business Pitch