September 7, 2012
Dunkin’ Donuts beats the breakfast wars, reinforcing its place as the number one coffee retailer and top choice for busy, on-the-go people
By Jim Bucci
As Dunkin’ Donuts entered the final quarter of 2010, the company looked ahead to 2011. The upcoming year represented the most momentous moment yet in the brand’s sucessful history. A number of game-changers resided in the offing, most notebly Dunkin’ Brands—the parent company of both Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins—planned to go public with an eagerly anticipated IPO sure to fuel both excitement and scrutiny on both Wall Street and Main Street.
Dunkin’ Donuts also readied to launch one of its most ambitious coffee programs ever by entering the fiercely competitive single-serve cup market with the introduction of K-Cup packs.
To win the nation’s competitive coffee and breakfast wars, success depended on an equally substantial communications and engagement campaign to accelerate brand awareness and distinguish why the brand is so different and special from competitors.
RF Binder, Dunkin’ Donuts’ national agency of record, came onboard to develop an aggressive, persistent and creative year-long plan to keep the national spotlight on the brand, keeping customers and media engaged in new and innovative ways.
“Our goal was to find new ways to highlight Dunkin’ Donuts’ coffee and breakfast leadership, promote the company’s evolution to an all-day stop and bring to life the fun and value that have helped to create such a deep, emotional connection between the brand and its guests,” explains Josh Gitelson, executive managing director at RF Binder.
The PR challenge and call to action was clear. Drive sales and deepen customer relationships by creating new and innovative ways to inform, influence and inspire target audiences.
The Strategy: Launch a series of messaging and promotion to highlight Dunkin’ unique beverages and commitment to communicating with fans. RF Binder embarked on a search to find compelling and unique programs to highlight Dunkin’ coffee and breakfast leadership and bring to life the fun, value and great food beverages that have helped to create the bond between the brand and its fans.
To keep Dunkin’ Donuts in the spotlight, the agency developed programs and pitches designed to stand out from those of competitors. For example, the brand collaborated with CareerBuilder.com to create and field a national survey of American workers to determine which professions rely on coffee the most, helping Dunkin’ Donuts dominate coverage on National Coffee Day.
Social media played a huge role in the campaign as well. Twitter followers received exclusive opportunities to develop nicknames for the brand’s new “Coolatta” flavors. The best names earned $50 Dunkin’ Donuts cards. A “Big N’ Toasty Trivia Tuesdays” contest earned Dunkin’ Donuts national trending topic status on Twitter twice. To celebrate new holiday menu items, fans tweeted photos of themselves in their holiday sweaters for the chance to win a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card. Dunkin’ also stood as the only national restaurant to celebrate National Apple Pie Day on Twitter, offering fans a prize for correctly guessing the type of apples used in the brand’s warm apple pie.
RF Binder reached out to bloggers as well, creating exclusive items specifically for them to use as giveaways to their readers, such as a “back to school gift basket” to promote Dunkin’ coffee as perfect for parents who need to keep running to keep up with their busy schedules. For the launch of the new Egg White Wake-up Wrap, select bloggers received a branded robe, so they could have something white and warm to help with waking up every day.
“We wanted to distinguish the company for an unmatched willingness to connect with consumers, media, bloggers and social communities through the quantity and quality of engagement opportunities,” offers Gitelson.
With the excitement for the Royal Wedding brewing to worldwide levels, Dunkin’ management saw an opportunity to capitalize on the event. Dunkin’ British-born CEO Nigel Travis personally directed the creation of the brand’s “Royal Wedding Donut,” which earned significant media coverage throughout the spring.
The company’s first-ever corporate blog, “Behind the Beans” allowed top leaders to provide fans a behind-the-scenes peek and insight into Dunkin’ Donuts news and strategy, extending another avenue for the company to communicate with its loyal consumers.
The Challenge: Position Dunkin’ as more than a Northeast-only retailer, but the country’s biggest coffee and donut seller. Dunkin’ Donuts faced a bit of an identity crisis when looking to take its brand nationwide. Namely, as part of the fabric of the Northeast for more than 60 years, consumers associate Dunkin’ Donuts with the region, spreading a myth about the company as a regional chain when it is the world’s largest coffee and donut retailer.
“One of the key challenges of the communications campaign was to persistently reinforce Dunkin’ Donuts’ position as the number one retailer of regular hot, decaf and flavored coffee, the brand’s commitment to offering new menu choices to keep guests running beyond the breakfast hour, and the company’s unique opportunities for steady growth in both new and current markets,” says Gitelson.
With a bevy of coffee-drinkers loyal to the Dunkin’ brand, messaging needed to play-up their passion for the company. “Dunkin’ Donuts really is more than just a stop for coffee or a breakfast sandwich,” explains Gitelson. “It is an important part of daily life for millions of people who depend upon the company to keep them running.”
“A challenge was to design communications programming that wouldn’t just stand out to media and bloggers, but also resonate with guests by remaining true to the brand’s core values of understanding the needs of busy, on-the-go people, delivering value and having a bit of fun as well,” he continues.
The Results: “America Runs on Dunkin’” garners tops placements in prestigious pubs, increases social media numbers on Facebook, Twitter. From October 2010 to September 2011, Dunkin’ Donuts received feature coverage in top national outlets, such as NBC’s “Today Show,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” CBS News, “Fox & Friends,” USA Today, The Associated Press, Time, CNN, The New York Times, Reuters,The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, AOL and Yahoo.com. Dunkin’ Donuts “Royal Wedding Donut” received feature coverage in prominent outlets, including “The Today Show,” “The Colbert Report,” USA Today, Time, “Good Morning America” and CNN.
“The brand realized a significant increase across all key media metrics, including total media impressions, national print and broadcast stories and blog posts,” says Gitelson. “Additionally, through creative efforts to engage social communities, Dunkin’ Donuts’ number of Facebook fans doubled and the brand increased its number of Twitter followers by nearly 80%.”
Additionally, on the day of Dunkin’ Brands’ IPO, NASDAQ changed its name for the first time in its history, becoming “NASDDAQ” for the day and adding Dunkin’ Donuts’ iconic pink and orange “DD” to its logo in Times Square and on its website.
Secrets of Success: Read on as Gitelson offers more tips and explains why this campaign won Gold in the category of “Best Company Positioning/Branding” at the 2012 Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations & Publicity.
- Fuel your existing fan base. “While many campaigns focus on identifying new customers, some of the most meaningful PR results are born from showing appreciation for the existing fan base,” he says. “A significant portion of Dunkin’ Donuts PR efforts target ongoing engagement with current guests. This includes everything from offering exclusive news or looks behind-the-scenes, holding special contests for fans and even sending a simple surprise Dunkin’ Donuts Card as a thank you to Twitter followers. These types of activities fuel fans’ affinity for the company and create more passionate, active brand ambassadors.”
- Create daily collaboration between company and client. “The most effective and creative programs are developed through a strong, ongoing partnership between the brand and the agency,” he explains. “The success of this particular campaign is testimony to Dunkin’ Donuts’ commitment at all levels of the business—corporate communications, leadership, marketing, culinary, interactive and franchises—to daily collaboration and investment in the creation and execution of innovative and successful PR.”
- Construct social media programs fans can own. “There is healthy debate in PR about who should ‘own’ social media,” he offers. “At Dunkin’ Donuts, the answer has always been, ‘no one department owns social media. Our fans own social media.’ Representatives from PR, marketing, digital, customer care and other departments unite daily to create content and develop strategies for effective engagement. In this paradigm, all departments singularly focus on developing innovative ideas to delight fans and build vibrant social communities. From this spirit of collaboration, Dunkin’ Donuts has seen its Facebook and Twitter numbers soar, successfully introduced new Pinterest and Instragram channels and earned national kudos for creative, effective social programming.”
Headquartered in New York, RF Binder is a full-service public relations agency with offices in Boston and bureaus in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. The agency launched in 2001 as an independent subsidiary of the Ruder Finn Group. Specialties include brand and corporate communications, media relations, marketing communications, digital and social media, capital markets communications, crisis management, corporate social responsibility, public affairs, thought leadership and expert positioning and event marketing.
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