ANA Annual Meeting 2013

Six Steps To Simplify Marketing, From Dunkin' Brands Marketing Chief

John Costello Shares Insights, Previews New Dunkin' Donuts Campaign

By Published on .

Most Popular

Digital media and mobile screens are core to Dunkin' Donuts marketing, but it pays to remember the basics, according to John Costello, Dunkin' Brands president-global marketing and innovation. "If we put a picture up on the wall [of products] in our restaurants we sell more," he said. "If we take it down, we sell less."

Balancing traditional media with digital is a complex task, making it "easy to be overwhelmed," said Mr. Costello, addressing the Association of National Advertisers meeting on Oct. 5. But he offered six tips to help focus marketing without getting caught up in the clutter of options.

Confront reality
"Hope is not a strategy," Mr. Costello said. "Winners honestly assess what's working and what's not." He cited as examples Domino's move to reformulate its pizza and explain the changes in an ad campaign, and Macy's, which switched its national strategy when it realized that "all retail is local."

In Dunkin's case, he said that although the chain's heritage is in donuts, harking back to the "Time to make the donuts campaign," its future is now in coffee.

Differentiate or die
The question all marketers should ask themselves is why consumers should choose their brand above all other choices. "If we can't answer that in a sentence or two we get lost in the shuffle," said Mr. Costello. Dunkin's proposition is that it is a place where "everyday folks who keep America running keep themselves running every day," he said, characterizing it not as a slogan but as a brand purpose.

Embrace every point of contact with customers
"Everything that touches the consumer defines their experience," said Mr. Costello, advising that marketers ensure that all their touch points are working. All Dunkin's new products -- the company introduced 43 last year, he said -- have a twist but are familiar so that there is product continuity. He also stressed the importance of store employees as brand ambassadors, noting that when he's asked how many brand managers the chain has, he answers 100,000.

Be agile
As consumer attention moves to mobile and social, companies must move with them. "More devices equal more distraction," Mr. Costello said, and in this distracted world, "we need to have a consistency of message." Dunkin's "What are you drinking?" message remains the same on mobile, its digital billboard in Times Square and Facebook, he said.

The company recently evolved that message by asking fans to share their answer to that question in social media, combing through thousand of tweets to find fans to star in a national TV campaign that Dunkin' previewed at the conference. The spots, created by Hill Holliday, feature the fans and their tweets about how the company's coffee fits into their busy lives. The commercials break Oct. 14, bearing the hashtag #mydunkin to encourage more social sharing.

"What are you drinking" was "very TV-centric," said Mr. Costello in an interview after his speech, but this is a "device-agnostic" marketing strategy that will start with TV ads but play out on the company's website; on Twitter and Facebook; elsewhere in digital means; on outdoor media and in stores.

Think long term
The company is investing in innovation by amping up its CRM and loyalty programs and "executing a mobile-first" strategy, said Mr. Costello, noting that Dunkin's bilingual mobile app has more than 3.5 million downloads. "We are integrating all the screens our guests use," he said.

It's also using real-time marketing with "Play of the game" Vine videos recreating plays from NFL games using Dunkin' coffee cups as "players." And the company monitors results closely. Mr. Costello said that by 6:30 a.m., he has a read on daily sales in its restaurants.

Build a team of people better than yourself
"Times are changing," he said, necessitating more teamwork and "reaching out to everyone you can." That includes franchisees, which he said are "our secret weapon." They are "entrepreneurs" who know their market best, Mr. Costello added.