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Dunkin’ Donuts is on the verge of drastically rebranding itself. The Massachusetts-based chain is testing the idea of dropping “Donuts” from its name and simply being known as Dunkin’. The goal is to lessen its association with donuts in order to better position itself as “a beverage-led brand and coffee leader” and better compete with Starbucks and other major coffee names. The rebrand is currently in test mode, as a new Dunkin’ store is launching in Pasadena, California, the first of several test locations. Dunkin’ will be evaluating how customers perceive this change, ultimately making a call on the branding by late 2018.

The average American spends $1,100 a year on a cup of coffee, making it an intense war for dollars. Starbucks and Dunkin’ are two of the biggest players in the space, with the former surpassing the later even though Starbucks launched 20 years after Dunkin’. Even with “donut” in its name, Dunkin’s leadership explicitly insists that it’s a beverage first company, and not donuts, which makes this rebranding effort a logical move. Think about it: Starbucks Coffee vs Dunkin’ Donuts. To a customer oblivious to both names, they’ll most likely gravitate to Starbucks if they want a cup of coffee and Dunkin’ if they want a baked good.

I typically would advise against such a major rebranding for a company that’s been around for over 60 years, but it’s a move that wouldn’t be that negative for Dunkin’. The company isn’t eliminating a critical aspect, as it’s not equivalent to Taco Bell dropping “Taco” from its name. Dropping donuts actually makes it more clear. But then again, simply “Dunkin'” sounds incomplete (what are you actually dunking?) and the new name doesn’t have a strong correlation with coffee.

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Rex Pham

Originally from the Bay Area, who then moved to Los Angeles, then out to New York City. NYU Stern MBA c/o 2014. Inspired by the grind of NYC to create something that has value. Lover of all things digital, culture, and brand strategy.

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