Reports: Dunkin’ Donuts Could Drop the Donuts for Good

Dunkin’ Donuts is said to be considering a branding change that would drop the ‘offensive’ reference to sugary doughnuts from its official name.

When a new Dunkin’ Donuts store opens in Pasadena later this year, there’ll be something missing: the Donuts.

No, not inside the store: it’ll still sell the popular treats that made the company famous. We’re talking about what’s on the outside: the shop will be called “Dunkin’” rather than “Dunkin’ Donuts.”

When I was a kid, there was a Dunkin’ Donuts near my grandmother’s home. The only exposure I had to Krispy Kreme was buying a box in a grocery store; it wasn’t until much later that an actual Krispy Kreme store opened in my area to offer their famous hot doughnuts. (I actually prefer the cooled, room temperature variety, but that’s another story for another post.)

In any case, I grew up with Dunkin’ Donuts. You walked in and saw a counter with stools for people to sit and enjoy their doughnuts with coffee. And you saw a wall of doughnuts of various varieties, from the normal plain glazed to iced to chocolate and everything in between.

It was all about the doughnuts.

One of the company’s most famous commercial campaigns featured the character of Fred the Baker, played by the late character actor Michael Vale, who was always saying it was “time to make the doughnuts:”

Dunkin’ Donuts opened its first location in 1950 in Quincy, Massachusetts, and has grown into one of the largest coffee and baked goods chains in the world.

And therein lies the rub. Even though it’s always been about the doughnuts, there’s more than “donuts” on the menu.

“While we remain the number one retailer of donuts in the country, as part of our efforts to reinforce that Dunkin’ Donuts is a beverage-led brand and coffee leader, we will be testing signage in a few locations that refer to the brand simply as ‘Dunkin’,” the company told CNBC.

And there’s that familiar “America Runs on Dunkin’” advertising slogan that was introduced back in 2006.

It reminds me of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s attempt to rebrand itself as KFC in 1991. The change in this case was rumored to be because of the negative connotation a more health-conscious society placed on the word fried. Of course, that marketing trick fooled no one: the top appeal there, whether you call it Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC, was the fried chicken.

This move by Dunkin’ Donuts, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be an attempt to make people pay less attention to the unhealthy doughnuts. Rather, it seems more like an acknowledgement that their menu has successfully diversified beyond just the doughnuts. Its current menu features other types of bakery goods, sandwiches and wraps and even healthier options like oatmeal and flatbreads.

Somehow this branding change seems less egregious.

Is anyone going to stop visiting Dunkin’ Donuts if they actually do decide next year to rebrand their entire change as Dunkin’? Probably not.

But I can’t help but think the majority of people who do go will still be choosing the famous “donuts” while they’re there.

If it were up to you, do you think the name change would be a smart idea? Why or why not?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.