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Dunkin donuts and focus

February 13, 2008

Ad agencies and brand consultants will tell their clients about the value of being single-minded and focused.

In a saturated and complex world, being focused is always better. It’s just easier to communicate one idea, rather than several.  

The problem with focus is it limits business. The finance folks and the people responsible for growth don’t want focus; in fact, they despise it because it means narrowing opportunity. They will come back to you saying they don’t just want to target women, they believe their target is everyone who owns a television. You see it all the time with cable networks that start off with a very focused mission, like weather and end up three years later showing horror movies and rare European documentaries.

This now appears to be the case with Dunkin Donuts.

At a time when their major competitor Starbucks appears to be down on their luck, Dunkin is doing the unthinkable, instead of focusing, it’s turning itself into a casual restaurant.

According to AP.

“Dunkin’ Donuts, the coffee and baked goods chain synonymous with breakfast, is targeting the afternoon and evening crowds with new flatbread sandwiches and personal pizzas heated in convection ovens rather than microwaves.

The chain hopes the moves, to be announced Wednesday, will improve food quality and bolster an expansion plan that’s introducing Dunkin’s pink and orange-themed restaurants far beyond the brand’s Northeastern base.

Although Dunkin’ has previously experimented with sandwiches, the 57-year-old chain is billing what it calls its “all-day, oven-toasted menu” as its biggest change since its launch of espresso drinks in 2003.”

Here’s a brand that made a radical move in 03 by introducing espresso drinks, that’s now turning itself into a combination of Quizno’s and Pizza Hut.

While the brand clearly wants to extend its opportunity across the day-part, the problem is that in most cases, consumers can only recognize and remember a brand for one thing.

Dunkin should just take a look at the difficulties Starbucks has had moving into other areas beyond coffee. Its latest strategy is to do away with some of their breakfast offering all together. On January 30th, Howard Schultz told analysts that warm sandwiches will be out by year’s end because serving sandwiches got in the way of employees ability to make the perfect shot of espresso

The problem for ad agencies and brand consultants is they find it hard to argue for focus because the business guys have all the numbers that show incremental growth to revenue.

It’s hard to present data on future brand health to clients because it doesn’t exist, but perhaps we should be working together with our research partners to develop some new ways to discover and present that.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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