Here's why Dunkin' is dropping Donuts from its name

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A dozen years after Dunkin' Donuts began using the slogan 'America Runs on Dunkin',' the brand will start running on Dunkin' only.
A dozen years after Dunkin' Donuts began using the slogan 'America Runs on Dunkin',' the brand will start running on Dunkin' only. Credit: Dunkin'

Dunkin' Donuts is taking the not-exactly-surprising yet still noteworthy step of dropping Donuts from its name.

The chain had held high its origin in doughnuts for 68 years. It will continue to sell them.

The switch will take hold in earnest in January, when the new, more succinct brand name will start to appear everywhere from cups and ads to store signs. On Tuesday, the company began to explain the switch in social media and elsewhere online.

"This isn't a change for the sake of change," Dave Hoffman, CEO of Dunkin' Brands and president of Dunkin' U.S., told reporters on a call Tuesday afternoon.

"Our new branding is a clear signal that there is something new at Dunkin'," he says. "It says we are a dynamic, on-the-go brand yet still pays homage to our great heritage."

Dunkin' Donuts was actually born out of a different restaurant's name. William Rosenberg opened his Open Kettle restaurant in 1948 in Quincy, Massachusetts. He served five-cent doughnuts and 10-cent cups of coffee. And he renamed the restaurant Dunkin' Donuts in 1950.

The change comes 12 years after Dunkin' Donuts began running ads featuring the tagline "America Runs on Dunkin'," created by its former longtime creative agency, Hill Holliday.

"Dunkin' is a shorter, simpler more modern version of who we've always been," says Tony Weisman, who joined Dunkin' a year ago as U.S. chief marketing officer.

Of course, Dunkin' isn't the first well-known brand to overhaul its name. Kentucky Fried Chicken has gone by KFC for decades. The International House of Pancakes has been IHOP for years (and briefly marketed itself as IHOB this year to promote its burgers). Weight Watchers just renamed itself WW on Monday.

"We really do find in today's world there's great energy in the simplicity of just Dunkin'," Hoffman said.

Video: Dunkin' Donuts trimmed its name and the Internet went nuts.

Beverage-led

Although donuts remain on the menu, the company does a bigger business in beverages. Drinks, led by coffee, make up 60 percent of Dunkin's sales. "Beverages are really the key to the future of the business," Weisman says.

The shortened moniker has already been tested at a small number of stores where signs already say just "Dunkin.'" The locations also include tweaks like displaying doughnuts in cases between cashiers and customers, as they often are in bakeries, instead of in racks behind the counter. Doughnut sales have gone up at those shops, Hoffman says.

The famous Frankfurter font and the familiar pink and orange imagery are sticking around.

Dunkin's name change comes after a series of other changes such as slimming down the menu but also adding new items including cold brew coffee and Donut Fries. The updates are being led by Hoffman, who left McDonald's to join Dunkin' as U.S. president in October 2016. He added the role of Dunkin' Brands CEO in July, giving him additional oversight of sibling chain Baskin-Robbins.

Weisman joined Dunkin' as U.S. CMO last year from Publicis Groupe's DigitasLBi, where he had been North American CEO. Dunkin' has since dropped Hill Holliday, hiring Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide for creative, Publicis Groupe's Arc for retail and in-store marketing, Jones Knowles Ritchie for branding, and a bespoke team of Publicis Media for U.S. media, including Digitas and Blue 449 for media buying and planning.

Dunkin' told franchisees about the update during a meeting Tuesday. Franchisees with new stores already planned will get the new look, while others will phase it in as remodels come. U.S. shops will start, with international overhauls to follow. There are "no immediate cost implications to the franchisees," Hoffman says.

Jones Knowles Ritchie, BBDO New York and Arc worked with Dunkin' on the brand overhaul. As part of the new name push, JKR came up with a social media campaign that includes giving people the chance to win Dunkin' friendship bracelets, on the premise that the brand it on a first-name basis with its fans.

Sales at longstanding U.S. Dunkin' Donuts shops rose 1.4 percent in the second quarter, as strong sales of breakfast sandwiches and frozen beverages helped mitigate a decline in visits. The first franchised Dunkin' Donuts location opened in 1955. There are now more than 12,600 franchised locations worldwide.

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