New Dunkin' Spots Say Chain Beats Starbucks on Taste

Campaign Follows Effort Poking Fun at Seattle Rival's 'Snob Factor'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Dunkin' Donuts is taking on Starbucks with a new campaign claiming it beats the java giant on taste. Backing the claim with a company-commissioned "independent taste test," Dunkin has begun a round of broadcast spots from agency Hill Holliday, Boston, championing the results.

The double-blind survey was conducted by A&G Research this summer in 10 major cities, including Seattle. Of the 476 adults surveyed, 54% preferred Dunkin', 39% preferred Starbucks and 6% had no preference. The research organization declined to comment for this story.

"The results of this independent taste test underscore what our customers have always known: Dunkin' Donuts quite simply serves the best cup of coffee in the country," said Frances Allen, Dunkin's brand-marketing officer, in a statement. "Dunkin' Donuts' 58-year heritage in coffee is unmatched by any other chain."

Dunkin' outspends Starbucks
Dunkin', a $5 billion private company, served 1.5 billion cups of coffee last year. Starbucks, a $9.4 billion public company, does not break out coffee sales by the cup. But Dunkin' is the bigger advertiser by far. According to TNS Media Intelligence, Dunkin' spent $107 million in measured media during 2007, compared to Starbucks' $38 million.

The chain has gone after Starbucks before, poking fun at the snob factor associated with the premium chain. At the dedicated microsite, DunkinBeatStarbucks.com, the chain appears to be taking a page from McDonald's, which trumpeted the Seattle launch of its McCafe coffee business with UnsnobbyCoffee.com. At that site, consumers could stage an "intervention" for friends who were spending too much on their coffee. At the Dunkin site, consumers can "spread the truth" by sending e-cards with messages like, "Friends don't let friends drink Starbucks."

Starbucks couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

A proven tactic
Robert Passikoff, president of Brand Keys, applauded the Dunkin' strategy, calling taste tests a tactic that has engaged consumers "since the dawn of time."

"[Dunkin' has] spent a good deal of time developing brand strategies having to do with quality and certainly with service, and certainly it's just implicit that they've got the price nailed pretty well. This kind of closes the loop for them," he said. "For the people who said, 'Well, the service is OK and I have to pay three times that at Starbucks, but I like the taste,' this is an answer to that."

Mr. Passikoff wasn't surprised by the survey's results, as his own organization named Dunkin' America's favorite cup of coffee following its annual brand-loyalty survey. The Brand Keys survey asked 26,000 regular coffee-drinking consumers to name their favorite cup. Dunkin' held the top spot, with an 8% edge on McDonald's coffee and a 10% margin on Starbucks. Krispy Kreme was a distant fourth.

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