These days, CMOs – Chief Marketing Officers – have a lot to do with strategic marketing and positioning of their companies. Most are tasked with major responsibilities when it comes to engagement, brand growth, demographics, and multimedia platforms.
I get especially interested when I read about marketers charged with turning around or transforming traditional brands – well-known products that perhaps have gotten a bit long in the tooth.
Yes, these stories often remind me of some of the battles we're facing in radio. And I'm always trying to understand the strategies behind the decisions they make, especially when millions of dollars in marketing are in the mix.
So, imagine my reaction when I read this quote in eMarketer:
“During our lifetime, brands like Sears and Woolworths have come and gone. We have no automatic right to exist or thrive in a rapidly changing world. We are always going to be respectful of our heritage, but we're not going to be bound by it.”
Who said it?
Tony Weisman, CMO of Dunkin' Donuts – now better known as just Dunkin'. We'll get to the rebrand of this iconic product in a moment.
Weisman's proclamation about aging brands that have to re-establish their value in a highly competitive marketplace is a statement you might imagine a grizzled radio broadcasting CEO making.
In the case of Dunkin' Donuts, is the decision to drop the “donuts” akin to a radio company dumping the R-word?
Weisman goes on to explain the thinking behind this decision:
“Dunkin’ Donuts was our original name, but we’ve had a number of different names over the years. Dunkin’ is very colloquial, friendly and easier to communicate in our packaging and advertising. It's the original font, but refreshed, brighter. It also was a way to underscore our heavier focus on beverages than on doughnuts. … We're not out of the doughnut business. But our growth and the industry growth is in coffee and related beverages. By being just Dunkin', it's easier for us to be all-in.”
If “beverages” is tantamount to “streaming,” Weisman sounds like a radio executive explaining why the company is changing its name. Is that a smart decision for Dunkin' (Donuts)? Is it a savvy choice by a radio exec?
Of course, part of the DD calculus revolves around demographics. Just like radio, Dunkin' Donuts is an aging brand, far more popular with Gen Xers and Boomers. Millennials? Not so much.
Unlike most radio broadcasters, Weisman and the Dunkin' team realize a crusade for youth is now a company imperative.
“We’re a 70-year-old brand and have a lot of customers who've grown up with us and are fans for life. But in the last generation or so, a lot of people came to their caffeine habit through Frappuccinos at Starbucks. We didn't have compelling alternative products, and they became latte lovers at Starbucks and the like…most of our energy is (now) focused on bringing younger consumers into the brand who have grown up and haven't naturally followed their parents into the brand as much as we would have hoped.”
If you replace “Frappuccino” and “Starbucks” with “streaming” and “Spotify,” Weisman may as well be a CMO for a radio company trying to recast its image and appeal to an emerging audience that is spending time elsewhere. The difference is that radio execs rarely, if ever, talk about appealing to younger generations.
Dunkin's new efforts are analogous to radio in other ways. Consider Weisman's four-prong plan to transform his aging brand:
- Digital offerings – Dunkin' has focused on digital, including a new app (“I'm very proud of that,” notes Weisman), serving up coupons that match the weather, and other smart uses of technology.
- Strategic partnerships – In the quest to target Millennials, Dunkin' has put together collabs with brands that include Saucony and Harpoon Beer. They may be unrelated to donuts, but they are connection points with young consumers.
- Word of mouth – From Giphy to stickers, the concept is to allow young Dunkin' coffee drinkers (the gateway drug) to post and share content. As Weisman notes, “I'm a big believer in peer-to-peer.” And as we know a recommendation for Dunkin' from a friend trumps any marketing the brand can do.
- Product improvement – And of course, it's about content. Weisman points to Dunkin's previous lack of focus on coffee “content – analogous to a radio brand ignoring streaming and mobile. Dunkin' now features a new menu, with an emphasis on espresso (sales now account for 10% of their overall product mix – a 50% jump).
The parallels to radio's struggles to transform its business model are too obvious. While Dunkin's strategies are fascinating, none of them have any chance of success without that final element – a focus on the product.
And that issue of dropping their traditional method of referral – “donuts” – is comparable to a broadcaster walking away from “radio.”
After reading this story in eMarketer by Lucy Koch, it was too tempting not to draw these obvious comparisons, and ask what you think about Dunkin's new marketing model.
Like the smell of great donuts.
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