Visual Marketing Can do Wonders: Dunkin Donuts Rebranding Case Study

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Wasn’t it all about donuts? Then, why exactly did Dunkin Donuts shifted their focus to coffee? Well, DNKN journey from donuts to coffee is interesting and clever really.

In 2000, the café culture was at its peak and the coffee shop phenomena was spreading fast. This culture provided a boost to small businesses and became a major source of revenue. Dunkin Donuts, intelligently adapted to the trend and shifted concentration from donuts to espresso-based beverages in 2003. This change helped in boosting sales by 5% in 2006. Moreover, In 2009 DNKN sold more coffee than Starbucks! And here’s how they did it.

Adapting to the Market Trends

Businesses work on the core idea of perfect timings and right situations. DNKN adapted to the emerging trend at the right time and thus their idea made a huge impact. First rule of business is keeping an eye on trends and fads. Your idea will die, if it is executed the wrong way and at the wrong time.

Adapting to the Market Trends

Tip: Play chess like a business person and entrepreneur. You will know the importance of right action at the right time.

Making Long Term Strategies

Data Monitor published a case study on Dunkin Donuts in Oct’ 08, which explains the long term plans and strategy of DNKN. By 2050, they look forward to establishing 5000 to 15000 newly styled outlets across the board, focusing on coffee. If you notice, DNKN has already been carefully taking steps towards its expansion. Why? Because they are aiming for something higher and they are trying to build their market for coffee. Well, it’s rightly said for them, “If your dreams doesn’t scare you, they are probably not big enough”.

Making Long Term Strategies

Tip: Keep yourself in the process of development. Satisfying state is scary for businesses.


Beating the Competition

“In the battle of the coffee giants, Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN) came out ahead of Starbucks. Dunkin’ Donuts’ customer satisfaction increased 4%, while Starbucks (SBUX) experienced a 3% drop”

Intriguing statistics right? You might be wondering how they even got there. Well, it’s not difficult to achieve, only if you are able to achieve in five basic areas.

1. Stay Focus On Business Objectives

Though DNKN shifted its focus from donuts to coffee, they didn’t completely neglected it. Today, you will notice DNKN emerging as a fast food chain. Therefore, you can call it a business expansion. Get on the train that market demands but keep your eyes set on your destination. Stay focused on where you want to see your business, and make sure to take different turns to achieve small goals but don’t get lost in the journey.

2. Learn to Differentiate Between Fads and Trends:

Fads are the fashion that keeps on changing but trends are long term phenomena that stay till decades as a conventional resource, even long after they are gone. You will see the conventional marketing, design ideas, writing and typography etc. They don’t simply get evaporated. Instead, get recycled and comes in new forms. For instance, visual marketing is a trend that is surely here to stay for a very very long time.

3. Be Flexible and Get Creative With Strategy

There is a huge difference between knowing things and implementing them. Big bees like Apple, Microsoft, Adobe and Google have already reached their objectives. They have already set a tough competition in the market, but does that mean, they should stop innovating their business? No! Because this is an interesting thing about competition; it keeps on growing and so must your business. You need to stay flexible with the ideas and accept the innovations; in fact look for ways to creatively execute them. Design strategies based on market trends and try to make it different by being yourself.

4. Convictions and Stay Dedicated

The process of success and victory is rough. It is full of hurdles, rocks and stones. Don’t give up. It is a race, where every business is struggling to reach the finish line first. So should you stop innovating and experimenting ideas? No! Hold onto your conviction and dedicatedly work for making a branding differentiation.

5. Don’t be Scared of Innovations

A business without risks is no business. You need to take risks, and work on executing impossible plans. Scrutinize your brand, snoop around and find out the core of your product and services. Eventually, you will see numerous ideas to get your business going in the toughest scenarios like DNKN did. They never closed gates for expansion; instead when the market went down with donuts, they shifted to coffee.

One Idea To Rule It All

Most important of all the basic ideas and rules for business is accepting that your business is by the people, with the people and for the people. Do you think that making a brand differentiation in such a competitive market, where big coffee giants like Starbucks exists, was easy? No! Let’s see what exactly DNKN did to beat the coffee giant.

One Idea To Rule It All

In October 2014 Tom Dougherty wrote in Stealing Share about the constant demotion of DNKN brand, where it suggested a rebrand. DNKN took the idea seriously and evolved accordingly. This was not it, DNKN was criticized for shifting their focus to coffee. Also, there were articles published to wake DNKN from its deep sleep. However, as a result of constant comparison with Starbucks, DNKN finally came up with a rebranding strategy.

From packaging to identity, everything was revamped. Even, the outlets were introduced with LED screens running persuasive coffee clippings. They started emphasizing more on what people wanted to see, when they visited DNKN.

As a result, DNKN noticed a 4% increase in customer satisfaction, while Starbucks experienced a 3% drop. Enough to explain the role and impact of customer centered strategy. They are constantly trying to please their consumers with relaxing environment, comfortable packaging, lavish ambiance, customized products, innovative flavors and satisfying taste.

Snoop on Your Customers – Listen and Execute

Rebranding did wonders for DNKN and they made a huge difference not only in the U.S. but globally as well. They worked on building their brand personality by creating a unique brand experience for their customers. But the question is how they exactly made a difference with rebranding and customer-centered approach? To begin with by intelligently adapting to visual marketing trends. Sometimes you really care but are not able to express it the right way, visuals can do the talking.

Dunkin Donuts worked on psychographics approaches to reach their audience. This helped them in developing insights into emotional associations and food sentiments of their customers. DNKN, creatively used those insights to connect with their target audience through visual marketing.

Moreover, they materialized their strategy with the help of billboards, posters, standees, menu, café visuals, visit cards, mugs and brand identity etc. No doubt they were met with great success when they focused on visual marketing strategy.

Let’s see how they adapted to emerging visual marketing trends and personalized their brand using customer-centric approach.

1. DNKN Logo

Dunkin-Donuts-LogoExplains the core idea of the business and connects to the warmth of coffee.

2. DNKN Visit Card

DNKN Visit Card
Purchasing cards to make buying convenient for customers – supporting savings approach

3. DNKN Mugs

No matter what is inside, the cup itself connects to the Dunkin experience.

4. DNKN Recycled Cups

DNKN Recycled Cups
A law banning take-out containers made of Styrofoam, went into effect on July 1 in New York City. Dunkin launched and designed recycled cups that are environment friendly.

5. DNKN Posters

DNKN Posters

DNKN Posters 2
Don’t you feel like purchasing coffee with your favorite donut right now? Connecting to emotional receptors

6. DNKN Banners

DNKN BannersEnthusing the sense of belonging. They make you feel that Dunkin is your home place.

7. DNKN Menu

DNKN MenuCaptivating images of food that seems so real on the menu, doesn’t it?

8. DNKN Busses

DNKN Busses
Ah! Don’t even think of running on streets without a coffee. Because DNKN knows what you want.

9. DNKN Packaging

DNKN Packaging

DNKN Packaging
Don’t your kids feel great carrying those cute munchkins house package? Oh! No don’t worry about your coffee, it won’t fall on your clothes.


The people centric rebranding approach helped DNKN in boosting their sales. Today, it’s the #1 coffee and bakery chain in the world, #1 in bagels (sales), #1 in donuts, #1 in coffee, flavored coffee, iced coffee and #2 in breakfast sandwiches.

Are you still thinking about adapting to visual marketing?


DNKN Case Study

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A philanthropist by nature, Shyrose Vastani is professionally working as a digital media marketer and visual design blogger. She is a visual media enthusiast with keen interests in research, business trends and graphic design. With a background in psychology, she is passionate about learning and sharing knowledge about visual media and its impact on consumer behavior and people in general.

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