This article previously appeared on News at Northeastern. It was written by Molly Callahan.
This weekend, Dunkin’ Donuts announced it might be trimming down—dropping the ‘Donuts’ and simply going by ‘Dunkin’.’
In a statement from the Canton, Massachusetts-based company, a brand spokesman said the move will “reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader.” The company will test-run the change at several locations, starting in Pasadena, California, and make a final decision by mid-to-late 2018.
That test run, said D’Amore-McKim School of Business associate professor and marketing group coordinator Bruce Clark is a “clever” approach.
“This basically puts up a trial balloon: Will dropping ‘Donuts’ bring more people into the store? The company gets to find some results without committing to doing anything until 2018,” Clark said.
Running such an experiment will help company executives gauge whether the change achieves its ultimate goal: broadening its reach without alienating existing customers—some of whom took to social media over the weekend to bemoan the potential change.
“There are two things to consider here,” Clark said. “First, Dunkin’ Donuts wants to do better in the West. Right now they’re a stronger East Coast brand than a West Coast brand. And doughnuts are consumed less in the West. This is a way for the company to remind people that doughnuts aren’t the only thing they do.”
The second factor, Clark said, is to establish whether the name change would prompt someone to stop going to Dunkin’ Donuts. That, he speculates, is unlikely.
“This is a move that makes a lot of sense for Dunkin’,” Clark said. “They’ve been trying to become a coffee company for years now—consider its ‘America runs on Dunkin’’ campaign. This is just the brand catching up to reality.”
Moreover, the change could help Dunkin’ Donuts compete against other coffee giants— Starbucks and, increasingly, McDonald’s.
“Dunkin’ definitely wants to be much more of a beverage company,” Clark said. “Coffee is a very profitable business because you can charge a lot relative to the price of the ingredients.”
Other major companies have gone through similar rebranding efforts in the past. Take Apple, Inc., which used to be Apple Computers, or KFC, formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken. “Brands will broaden their name if they think the existing name is holding them back,” Clark said.