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May 08, 2002

Dunkin' Donuts Brand Marketing Tips and Partnership Tactics

SUMMARY: Whether you work for a quick service restaurant chain, or you are considering partnering with one, definitely check out our interview with Dunkin' Donuts' Kelly Fattman. She shares tips on packaging, low-cost promotional campaigns, dealing with competition, and what other types of companies her brand would like to partner with.
As the Concept Project Manager for Allied Domecq Quick Service Restaurants', Kelly Fattman currently focuses on helping Dunkin' Donuts expand into non-traditional locations such as supermarkets and gas stations. She has also promoted the Company's sandwich chain Togo's.

We asked her for tips on brand marketing strategies for fast food chains; which companies should consider partnering with Dunkin' Donuts.

QUESTION: What are some of the best, low-cost promotions you have been involved with, and why did they work?

FATTMAN: We try and maintain tight budgets on all programs. We did a free sandwich giveaway for Togo's, which we found to drive great results and be cost effective. Viral email and good PR drove business up prior, during, and after the promotion. The budget was minimal but utilized effectively.

It can be expensive to give products away, but with viral email and the right PR it can really work. This type of approach can attract new customers and reward existing customers. Your company can also develop an email database to go back and target people who you know are interested in your brand.

Unfortunately most companies do not utilize email properly; but if done right, it can work and be cost effective.

QUESTION: Who should be partnering with Dunkin' Donuts and why?

FATTMAN: People who want to get their brand out there quickly; maybe it's new packaging or a new product. On a larger scale, companies that are looking for a point of difference for their customer, an example would be supermarkets.

We are interested in looking at channels that range from home improvement companies to mass merchandisers. As your company continues to grow you have to continue to differentiate yourself. Keep yourself relevant and convenient.

QUESTION: What are the key points to consider before entering a strategic alliance or co-branding relationship?

FATTMAN: You need to be clear what your brand stands for and partner with people who have similar or complimentary aspects. Partner with other high-quality product names. Make sure the partnership is one where you are stepping up together as opposed to them just stepping up with you.

The partnership also needs to be relevant to the consumer. In the boardroom something that sounds interesting may not translate to the marketplace.

Partnership success is in the details. You can't under-prepare for a strategic partnership. There are many ways either party can be negatively effected, and your brand will be incredibly impacted if it's not done properly. It must be clear on what each party is looking to gain from the partnership. Clearly identify the benefits for both parties. All of this must be agreed upon before entering into the relationship.

QUESTION: What are some new concepts you have tried that were successful?

FATTMAN: We recently modified our logo. We have added a coffee cup icon to communicate coffee to our customer. Many people outside our core markets see us as just a bakery but we also offer excellent coffee, which is a strong business.

We always continue to develop new products to increase choices for customers. Over the last 10 years we have added bagels, enhanced our muffins and recently introduced scones.

QUESTION: Were there any new concepts that were not successful and why?

FATTMAN: We tried the Dunkin' Deli for little while. It had a strong response, but ultimately the company decided to purchase a sandwich brand [Togo's] and that was competitive to the Dunkin' Deli.

Fortunately, we have had a good run of successful products and marketing programs.

QUESTION: How do you know when it's time to make changes to your packaging?

FATTMAN: We usually test packaging a couple of times a year, particularly with holiday packaging. There is always something going through the system. It can be for quality or design.

We always want to stay fresh, but can't change the fundamentals too often. Holiday packaging may be modified more frequently but again tends to be infrequent. As long as it is fun and interesting and current we'll do it, but you have to be really careful.

Right now we are increasing the donut box choices. We are looking to offer flat boxes, which are currently in test. This can take time because of the operational implications. It's not quick but testing is critical. We once put new sandwich wrap into the Togo's system without a proper test and it significantly slowed down speed of service.

QUESTION: What are some cost issues to consider in the creation of new packaging?

FATTMAN: It depends. If you have no money your packaging can be your marketing. With Togo's, for one, the packaging is the voice.

With packaging the goal is to create a few varieties needed to actually package product. You can get buried in packaging and the cost can be prohibitive. Most important, make sure the packaging speaks for the brand. It can have millions of impressions on potential consumers.

The problem with packaging is it is difficult to measure the effects.

QUESTION: How closely do you consider your competition's efforts when developing new concepts?

FATTMAN: Our company focuses on innovation, but we do keep a close watch on what other companies are doing. Any company that sells coffee and bakery items can be a competitor.

QUESTION: What are some key points to consider for your brand when entering new markets?

FATTMAN: Location and brand expression. When you enter a new market you should consider how you want the brand to be represented. Does it make sense to offer all products, or should there be modifications due to regionally differences? Also know where your competition is and what they are doing.

One of our biggest challenges is how people perceive Dunkin' Donuts. Many know us for great coffee and baked goods; but, outside of our core markets, many haven't experienced our delicious coffee.

This is where things like packaging can really help to communicate the company offerings.
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