Dunkin' Donuts is doubling down on its "everyman" reputation.
"When we think about the sentiment of consumers in America right now, our brand stands for something that is all about hard work, transparency, values — that's our brand," Scott Hudler, Dunkin's chief digital officer, said on Tuesday at a media day.
"It's America runs on Dunkin', not Republicans run on Dunkin', Democrats run on Dunkin'," he continued. "It's America runs on Dunkin. When we think about elitism starting to fade away, this is our sweet spot."
Dunkin's self-presentation could be seen as a jab at the more expensive Starbucks, which has come under fire for CEO Howard Schultz's progressive stances. Or, it could simply be a vocalization of the fact that Dunkin' Donuts is trying to offer something completely different than its competitors.
"If you're going to sit somewhere and write your screenplay, a Dunkin' location probably isn't for you," Hudler said. "But if you're running the carpool in the morning, if you're running your kids to hockey or soccer… then we're your brand. We're for you."
Dunkin's recent exploration of more complex and expensive beverages has raised concerns that the chain was trying to win over coffee snobs — creating an identity crisis of sorts for the chain. While the coffee-snob-approved image allows chains like Starbucks to charge higher prices and win over new customers, even Starbucks has struggled to maintain an upscale reputation while also opening thousands of locations.
By doubling down on anti-elitist branding, Dunkin' Donuts can focus on appealing to the average, on-the-go American. While that may mean the chain loses out on the coffee snob crowd, it also means Dunkin' can be more cautious and learn lessons from competitors' successes and failures.
"The great thing about being a little big behind those guys, is we've been able to study them" as Dunkin' grows its mobile ordering platform, Hudler said on Starbucks' and other chains' recent mobile issues.
The same theory applies to Dunkin's menu.
Dunkin' Donuts rolled out cold brew last summer — a launch the company considers one of the most successful in its history.
However, the company had been testing and tinkering with the beverage for some time, waiting for the perfect moment when the drink became mainstream enough that Dunkin' wouldn't be tasked with educating customers about the beverage. Instead, the coffee chain waited to launch cold brew just as it was becoming something customers expected and wanted.
As coffee culture sweeps the US, Dunkin' Donuts isn't trying to be hip.
And, in 2017, the company believes that's the ideal position to win over customers.
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