Dunkin’ DoNOmore

Dunkin ... Donuts?

Dunkin’ Donuts is considering a name change by dropping the “donuts” from Dunkin’ Donuts. This isn’t too shocking since the company has been referring to itself as just “Dunkin’” in their advertising for more than a decade. The first big change will come when a storefront in Pasadena, California will just be called Dunkin’ to test the new name change.

The new name and test store coincides with the company’s plan to develop a new restaurant image, but will not make any major decisions regarding their branding until 2018, after they have tested the name change.

The Dunkin’ Donuts name has branded coffee and donut shops for almost seven decades since the first shop opened in Massachusetts in 1950. Dunkin’ will continue to sell donuts but would like to be known more for their coffee. Similarly, Domino’s dropped “pizza” from its name back in 2012. Domino’s wanted to be known for more than just pizza.

This Domino’s video shows just how far they went to convince the world (or the Trademark Office?) that they were more than just a pizza company:

Other big companies have had comparable name changes. In 2007, Apple dropped “computers” from its name in order to open up their field to phones, watches and tablets. In 2012, Starbucks removed “coffee” from its logo. But what effects do these name changes have on their branding and intellectual property?

All of these name changes were successful because these companies treated category generic terms like computer, coffee, and pizza separately form their trademark names. In other words, these words were used as descriptors to clarify what the brand offers, not as the primary branding itself. However, names like Pizza Hut and Dunkin Donuts rooted category descriptors to their name which limits their potential for category expansion. In 2009, Pizza Hut attempted to nickname themselves “The Hut” but this name did not stick.

A name change can create a lot of press attention for a brief time, so it is important for the brand to make the most of the opportunity. When Domino’s dropped “pizza” from its name, it introduced chicken, sandwiches, pasta, and cheesy bread. For Apple, Starbucks and Dominos, the name change was to expand the products they offer. Dunkin’, on the other hand, is looking to drop their variety and focus on their coffee. Will America run on Dunkin’ or trip over this name change?

[This article was prepared and written by Ashley Winslow, our intellectual property rookie.]