Dunkin’ Drops Donuts – Why?

Your Brand Must Match your Business

Dunkin’ Donuts shops are everywhere in much of the eastern US and parts of the west coast. When MIT students installed a Cambridge police car on the roof of the Great Dome as an overnight prank, the blue light was flashing, and a DD cup was on the dashboard.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ announcement that Donuts would no longer be part of the brand name left me expecting Burger King to announce a name change to Chardonnay King. What’s the story?


Nigel Travis recently stepped down as CEO of Dunkin’ Brands. According to Travis, 60% of Dunkin’ revenues in the US are from beverages. Outside the US, 90% of revenues are from food. Most Dunkin’ customers in the US come to their stores for a coffee, coolatta, iced caramel macchiatos, or French vanilla latte. They may purchase a donut or muffin, but the reason they come to the store is to buy the beverage.
Nigel Travis & Rick Williams
When Dunkin’ Donuts was founded and grew to scale, donuts were a significant product feature and differentiator. The brand name and logo Dunkin’ Donuts supported that image of the company and its position in the marketplace. When donuts were no longer a central brand differentiator, time had come to remove Donuts as the brand statement for the company. Well before the name change, the logo was changed to remove the donut image. A cup of coffee became the brand image.

What can you learn from Dunkin’ Donuts dropping Donuts?
Ask what your company name, product name, and logo communicate to your customers. What are you selling? Do your core marketing and branding images and messages communicate the product you are selling? If not, what should they communicate about your brand and your products?
Freedom Tower, World Trade Center, NY
The bright blue sky and the twin towers of September 11 are still vivid in my mind. After speaking at a program in New York, I took the subway to the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan. I walked around the reflecting pond at the foot print of the towers and looked up at the Freedom Tower reaching into the sky as I thought about that day.

2 comments on “Dunkin’ Drops Donuts – Why?”

  1. Makes sense. Almost too much sense. So why did they wait so long? They watched as so many, one after another stole SOM from them starting with Au Bon Pain. They even watched when Harvard Square opened more coffee shops and closed book stores. They watched when consumers' awareness of healthier diets nixed donuts. A more appropriate question might be why management takes so long to bring their awareness and consciousness to bear to factors 'other than I'. As Peter Drucker said, put the customer in the center and not your product nor process.

  2. Should FedEx (Federal Express) change its name to Intex (International Express) because it now delivers worldwide? Should IBM (International Business Machines) become IBSH (International Business Software and Hardware)?

    I would argue that whether you should change your name depends on more than what you’re selling. The most important issue is name recognition: Do people already know what you do? Unless Federal Express had been founded in 1830 as “Pony Express,” I wouldn’t change the name that you’ve spent decades building awareness of, and still has high recognition.

    Do people really go into a Dunkin’ Donuts shop and come out saying, “Gosh, I didn’t know they sold beverages!”

    Should a company like AT & T (American Telephone and Telegraph) drop the second T and become AT? How about Avon, which started out as a company selling used books door-to-door?

    Don’t mess with a good thing unless you ‘absolutely, positively’ have to.

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