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Dunkin’ Donuts: Altering Tradition May Be Risky Business

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After close to 70 years, Dunkin Donuts is removing the “Donuts” from its name. The name change follows suit regarding efforts to rebrand the coffee empire. The next-gen overhaul includes everything from storefront architecture to increased energy efficiency. Some locations have even installed coffee tap systems that resemble what you would find in a pub, instead of beer, it spews out a variety of Dunkin’s cold coffee creations. And these are things that anyone could presumably get behind. Except the name change seems to be rubbing people the wrong way. Many have taken to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction, citing their “old school” taste and the fact that the Massachusetts based coffee company coined the word “donut.”

Messing with a classic is, more often than not, a bad idea. Take Tropicana’s design change back in 2009. The traditional branding was swapped with what, The New York Times reports, some called “ugly” or “stupid” and “resembling a generic bargain brand.”  Not to mention that the costs of such rebranding are normally quite high. Pepsi spent $1 million on their latest logo redesign, saving the cost of removing the old one from where it appears and substituting the new one (apparently to no avail considering the ridicule it received). But of course, you would have to look at the figures to come to a complete consensus over whether these design changes are worthwhile.

Rebranding is a tricky business. It’s well documented that a company’s brand is critical towards its function, but it’s often hard to tell how and why – especially immediately after some kind of shift in direction. A brand creates loyalty. Loyalty is in want of tradition. Altering tradition is risky but also necessary.

According to Dave Hoffman, president of Dunkin’ Donuts, “The launch of our next generation concept store marks one of the most important moments in Dunkin’ Donuts’ growth as an on-the-go, beverage-led brand.” Dunkin’ is moving away from donuts and towards coffee beverages. The uncomfortable transition period may be unavoidable, but that doesn’t mean it won’t pay off in the long run.