It's official. Dunkin' Donuts is no longer Dunkin' Donuts. Henceforth, the company's stores will only be known as Dunkin'. "Dunkin' Donuts has been on a first-name basis with its fans long before the introduction of its iconic tagline, 'America Runs on Dunkin',' with customers around the world naturally and affectionately referring to the brand as 'Dunkin','" the company explained in a press release. The change, it explained, acknowledges this phenomenon, and also the company's desire to "transform itself into the premier beverage-led, on-the-go brand."

In short, the former Dunkin' Donuts has been selling fewer doughnuts and more coffee, and is eyeing Starbucks'+ market share. So in that regard, the new name might make sense. But overall, it raises more questions than it answers. 

1. What, exactly, is being dunked?

Journalists tend to be very literal, and also very picky about grammar, so several commentators have made note of the fact that "dunking" (with or without the final g) is a form of the verb to dunk, which is a transitive verb. In other words, you can't just be dunking, you've got to be dunking something. If it's no longer a doughnut, what is it? 

2. What about @DunkinDonuts? 

That Twitter handle has well over a million followers. Are they going to start over with @Dunkin? Incidentally, if they do want to, they'll have to buy that Twitter handle from a user only identified as "TC."

3. Are people really buying fewer doughnuts because of healthier eating habits?

It's easy to assume that the public is turning away from doughnuts, just as it is from soda and other sugary treats, out of increased interest in healthful eating. But at the same time, doughnuts, like cupcakes, have become an unquestionable gourmet trend. Food-fashion-forward shops are topping them with everything from bacon to breakfast cereal, and people wait hours in line to buy doughnuts at Portland's Voodoo Doughnut

One Dunkin' executive told an industry publication that in locations where the company reduced its doughnut offerings, sales improved "instantly." Does that mean people are eating fewer Dunkin' doughnuts because they're not edgy enough? Or do they like the doughnuts less than they used to?

Several Twitter users responded to the @DunkinDonuts announcement by complaining that the chain stopped making doughnuts all day, and so the doughnuts weren't as fresh as they used to be unless you happened to come by at exactly the right time. I don't know the specifics of when or how often Dunkin' makes its doughnuts, or how its doughnut sales are trending, but those comments might provide a clue.

4. Why don't big companies want you to know what they're selling anymore?

As Vox pointed out, this name change is part of a wave of consumer chain name changes away from the specific and toward the vague. Starbucks Coffee became just plain Starbucks because it didn't want to be known just for selling coffee. On the other hand, Dunkin' does want to be known for selling coffee, which is why it dropped Donuts from its name. Jo-Ann Fabrics became just Joann because--you guessed it--it sells more than just fabric. Don't even get me started on the whole IHOb incident. And perhaps even stupider than that, Weight Watchers became just WW because people don't like diets as much as they used to.

Compared to that last name change, the change from Dunkin' Donuts to Dunkin' doesn't seem all that bad. Especially since many of the chain's fans just call it "Dunks" anyhow.

Published on: Sep 27, 2018
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