Dunkin’ Without the Donuts

“Time to make the donuts!” When I learned that Dunkin’ Donuts is planning to drop “Donuts” from its name in a test, the phrase “Time to make the donuts!” immediately popped into my mind as it is from my favourite old Dunkin’ Donuts commercial. The character, “Fred the Baker,” who made “fresh donuts all day long,” uttered that line in a variety of Dunkin’ Donuts commercials that ran from 1981 to 1997.

For more than 60 years, “Dunkin’” has been closely aligned with “Donuts.” So, hearing that Dunkin’ Donuts is considering removing “Donuts” from its name took many by surprise. The new “Dunkin’” moniker debuts on a store in Pasadena, California, this month followed by Quincy, Massachusetts. No international Dunkin’ Donuts stores will be affected.

Parent company Dunkin Brands said that Dunkin’ Donuts remains the number one retailer of donuts in the US and that donuts will continue to play an important role in the business. However, Dunkin wants to be known primarily as a “beverage-led brand and coffee leader.”

Will the name change work?

Other quick serve restaurant (QSR) chains have shortened or altered their names and found success: Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC to down play the “fried” aspect of its menu; Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits became Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen (although it’s most commonly referred to as “Popeye’s”); and Dairy Queen is often called simply DQ. In Asia, Church’s Chicken is known as Texas Chicken.

Conversely, Pizza Hut tried changing its name to The Hut in multiple locations throughout the US in 2009, but the company received backlash and ridicule from the media and public. In the UK, Pizza Hut tried changing its name to Pasta Hut but that strategy also backfired. The problem, according to many critics, is that Pizza Hut’s entire brand revolves around pizza.

While Dunkin’ Donuts may have started as a purveyor of donuts, and is still the leading donut retailer in the country, it no longer relies solely on selling donuts. The QSR has done a tremendous job of building its beverage—coffee—programme: Dunkin’ Donuts sells more than 1.8 billion cups of hot and iced coffee globally every year. It also sells a variety of other foods (which Dunkin Brands also announced is being streamlined).

Dropping “Donuts” from its name is a gamble, but one that will likely pay off. In this era of texting and tweeting, where words are continuously shortened or abbreviated, and feelings are identified with emojis and characters, “Dunkin’” is certainly a lot faster and easier to type. Although, if Dunkin’ Donuts wants an even sleeker and shorter name, it could take that strategy one step further and go with “DD.” 😉

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