April 24, 2006

Just Remember How Icarus Bought It

SETH STEVENSON has a nice article in Slate today in which he gives two thumbs up to Dunkin' Donuts' new advertising campaign. Apparently, the coffee-and-donut chain has embarked on a quest to bring the goodness of Dunkin' Donuts across the land, and thus is trying to convince people that Dunkin' Donuts is -- well, about the donuts, but mostly about the coffee. Mr Stevenson, who gives the campaign an "A," writes:

Dunkin' Donuts is spreading its wings. The chain is expanding nationwide and plans to triple in size within the next 10 years. According to a Dunkin' press release, this new ad campaign "marks the most significant repositioning effort in the company's 55-year history." A big part of the goal here is to introduce the brand to Americans not yet familiar with it ...

The ads are very watchable, and I think the campaign nails the brand image Dunkin' is striving for. Down-to-earth, value-oriented, but still fun and just a tiny bit hip. As for that new slogan, America Runs on Dunkin'? Given the calorie counts on some of those donuts and flavored coffee items, it might be more accurate to go with America Waddles on Dunkin'. But I guess that doesn't scan quite as well.

Now, as heretical as this might seem to my New Englander friends, I think the jury might be out a while on Dunkin' Donuts' efforts. You see, back in the Eighties, when I was growing up in Kalamazoo, Mich., Dunkin' Donuts was seen as a second-rate competitor to the local donut chains. This determination was made solely on the quality of Dunkin's donuts, because back home, coffee was not a necessity but simply an optional add-on (unless one was retired and was a daily customer). I don't know if this has changed all that much in Kalamazoo and places like it. Oh, people back home like coffee, but would they go to Dunkin's for that alone? We shall see.

Of course, to see, Kalamazoo will need another Dunkin' Donuts. Apparently the old one closed a while ago, for according to Dunkin's Web site, the closest one is apparently in Battle Creek -- some 30 miles east of the Celery City.

However, that's not to say that Dunkin' Donuts won't succeed elsewhere. When I lived in Los Angeles, a friend of mine with Massachusetts roots once searched desperately and fruitlessly for a Dunkin' Donuts, only to find there were none. At the time, I didn't understand why it was so important to him -- a donut is a donut is a donut, no? -- but I do now. So if Dunkin's hasn't yet gone after the large Western cities, I would think they ought -- just because those places will undoubtedly be full of expat New Englanders who want their coffee.

And now that I've been in New England for five years, I can assure you that New Englanders won't let anything get in the way of their access to coffee. Don't believe me? Dig this article on various coffee-related products in New England.

If you still don't believe me, consider this: here in Manchester, N.H., we have 30 Dunkin' Donuts locations within ten miles of downtown. One of these is at a local hospital. Practically no one so much as raises an eyebrow.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at April 24, 2006 09:11 PM | TrackBack

Another sign of the New England affection for Dunkin Donuts is that in the town that I grew up in, which is a bustling central Mass. metropolis of 10,000 people, there are 2 within 3 miles.

One of the other Dunkie's oddities is that the coffee is not nearly as good outside of New England. Aside from not being able to order "a regular," which in NE means cream and sugar, it was always far more watery. My friends in Philly thought I was crazy when I would mention wanting to get coffee there.

Posted by: Chris at April 26, 2006 02:01 PM
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