A Donut By Any Other Name

At most high schools in New England, it is not an uncommon sight to see people stroll in late to their first period class with a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee in hand, a purchase made never more than a block away from school. Due to brand recognition and quality products, Dunkin’ Donuts has become one of the premier coffee providers in the United States. However, two months ago, the company elected to drop the second half of its name and rebrand as simply “Dunkin’.” Some see this as a way to modernize the company and reflect changing values or consumer tastes; others fail to find any substantial gain that could come of the name change. What’s in a name, and what is the driving force behind changing it?

One of the common reasons behind the switch to “Dunkin’” is the hope of distancing the company from negative connotations or bad press associated with donuts. In a time when increasing numbers of American consumers are striving to become health conscious, having fatty foods, such as donuts, in the name of a company may hurt customers’ willingness to consume their products. Consider how Kentucky Fried Chicken switched to KFC in 1991 in order to drop the term, “Fried,” from their name. The connotation of fried foods today is perceived negatively for health reasons. Also, the donuts at Dunkin’ are widely seen as inferior to those of Krispy Kreme Donuts, and having “donuts” in Dunkin’s name almost implies competition as to which chain has better donuts. Because of the company’s shift in values, Dunkin’ hopes to avoid waging war with Krispy Kreme, or even healthy eating for that matter.

Above all else, by tweaking its brand, Dunkin’ strives to be seen as a beverage company. Beverages accounted for over sixty percent of the company’s sales last year. With the notion that they have become a beverage company, rather than a fast food restaurant, Dunkin’ has challenged previous conceptions by even beginning to sell their own branded beer. This rebranding allows Dunkin’ to sell new products, as well as push forward already-successful ones. The price margins of Dunkin’s coffee are astronomically high, due to the large percentage of water found in their coffee, in addition to their large capital and inventory of beverage-making equipment. As the company wants to evolve Dunkin’ into the premier beverage-led, on-the go-brand, they are being both economic and utilitarian.

Finally, the idea of simplicity in the name is a way to modernize the company and to attract next-generation customers. The company practiced what it preached by cutting down its menu by ten percent earlier this year. Beyond a cutback in their menu, however, Dunkin’ has had difficulty hiring employees, partly due to labor shortages. As an alternative, they have increasingly turned to technology-based solutions with automation, thereby reducing the number of required in-store employees. A shorter name matches the philosophy of simplification with both fewer items and fewer workers.

Because of its great taste (personally speaking) and its willingness to adapt to the times, it is certain that America will continue to “Run on Dunkin’.”