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Dunkin' Donuts 50th Anniversary

Paul Holmes 19 Apr 2001

The year 2000 marked the 50th Anniversary of Dunkin’ Donuts.  Dunkin’ Donuts was eager to use the occasion as an opportunity to energize and revitalize the brand, position the brand as an innovator in the QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) industry, celebrate the rich heritage of the brand and garner extensive consumer, business and trade publicity. Dunkin’ Donuts was also eager to celebrate the occasion with its 84 year-old founder, Bill Rosenberg, the only living icon from the era of fast food franchising.

Cone rose to the challenge of creating a comprehensive campaign with wide range appeal.  The team created a program  that invigorated the brand and attracted both national and local media while generating impressive grassroots media attention in each of Dunkin’ Donuts’ top markets. Cone appealed to media from every angle by examining several stories within the 50th Anniversary campaign that brought to life the legacy of the brand. Cone’s program resulted in extensive brand exposure and an ad equivalency value that tripled the initial budget allocated for the campaign.   

PROGRAM CHALLENGES

Cone overcame the following challenges in development and execution of the 50th Anniversary program:

  • Cone tackled the obstacle of the “commercial” image of the brand by creating and developing interesting, newsworthy stories that brought life to the brand and appealed the media. 
  • Cone cut through the clutter of everyday anniversary celebrations and differentiated the Dunkin’ Donuts anniversary message by creating a campaign that was in line with the Dunkin’ Donuts brand essence. 
  • Cone created hundreds of media opportunities on both national and local levels through: special events (National Campaign Day), guerilla marketing tactics (TODAY appearance), and scheduled media tours with business editors.

PLANNING AND RESEARCH

Cone was challenged to meet the following program objectives:

  • Create consumer awareness of the 50th Anniversary of Dunkin’ Donuts 
  • Integrate public relations campaign with promotions and advertising programs 
  • Generate consumer and employee involvement in the festivities 
  • Increase shop sales 
  • Maximize media coverage for the 50th Anniversary 
  • Utilize anniversary event to attract new consumers and appeal to current consumers

To most effectively reach these varied goals, Cone's planning process included the following:

  • Extensively explored the rich history of the brand, leveraging all differentiating and newsworthy historical facts 
  • Met with several vendors to determine the most effective method of visually communicating the celebration 
  • Organized a series of internal interviews and media trainings with Founder Bill Rosenberg to capture his dynamic personality 
  • Organized brainstorming meetings over several months with agency partners of Dunkin' Donuts to ensure an integrated approach to the campaign 
  • Prepared and distributed a program guide and media materials booklet for all regional field marketing representatives at Dunkin' Donuts.  The booklet included key messages for media, ideas for local market media, grassroots PR events and ideas for in-shop enhancements 
  • Developed organizational documents to keep client informed, including media outreach strategy forms, media update grids, weekly media/client meetings, timelines and calendars for the various events

STRATEGY AND EXECUTION  

The 50th Anniversary campaign consisted of four different stories, all celebrating the unique Dunkin’ Donuts brand and communicating the 50th Anniversary message. In addition, as the founder of Dunkin’ Donuts and the only living fast-food icon today, Bill Rosenberg served as an invaluable resource for media relations during the campaign.  Cone organized media tours with Rosenberg as he touted Dunkin’ Donuts’ rich heritage and his vision of success.  As a result, Rosenberg personified the Dunkin’ Donuts brand and was depicted as the epitome of the American business success story in media placements nationwide.  With a total budget of $500,000, Cone worked closely with sales promotions and advertising to create an integrated campaign to maximize the campaign’s impact.

50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION EVENT: To herald the occasion, Cone coordinated a large-scale consumer event to promote public awareness and create a news “event” to pitch Dunkin’ Donuts 50th Anniversary to the media. To kick off the celebration, on March 1, 2000,  Dunkin’ Donuts turned a Boston shop entirely gold, inside and out. The Boston event location was chosen because of its proximity to the original Dunkin’ Donuts location in Quincy, MA.  The press kit Cone created for the anniversary celebration visually conveyed the history of Dunkin’ Donuts through its creative “scrapbook design” and archive of photos.

The Gold Shop event honored long-time Dunkin’ Donuts franchisees, employees, Dunkin’ Donuts Founder Bill Rosenberg, Dunkin’ Diplomat Fred the Baker, and featured a parade of vintage cars from the 1950's, and a festively decorated four-foot birthday cake.   Additionally, the Gold Shop event featured:

  • A letter of congratulations from President Clinton honoring Bill Rosenberg and Dunkin’ Donuts 
  • A motorcade of vintage cars and trolleys carrying hundreds of Dunkin’ employees, which wound its way through the streets of Boston to kick-off the event 
  • Impersonators from the 1950's including Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and James Dean

5 CENT MONDAYS: To further celebrate the 50 year heritage of the brand, Cone suggested Dunkin' Donuts roll donut prices back to five cents, what they were in the 1950's.  To alert the public of 5-cent Mondays campaign, Cone sent a series of three teaser postcards to reporters across the country and received responses from hundreds of media contacts interested in learning more about the promotion. Cone pitched national consumer long and short-lead media, including business media in the top-40 Dunkin’ Donuts markets.  Many local television affiliates also set-up live remotes from Dunkin’ Donuts shops on Mondays in March.  

THE NATIONAL DONUT VOTE: To further increase awareness of the 50th Anniversary among consumers, Dunkin’ asked its customers to vote for their favorite Dunkin’ Donut in a national campaign. More than 600,000 voters cast their ballots, with Boston Kreme receiving 27% of the vote, becoming America’s favorite. To support the National Donut Vote, Cone worked with Dunkin’ Donuts to organize a “National Campaign Day” on March 9 to coincide with the presidential campaign.  “Donut Heads” across the country “lobbied” for donut votes with picket signs in malls, on the streets of New York City, even on the steps of the State House in Boston, making for great photo opportunities across the country.  To further extend the message to a national audience, campaigning “Donut Heads” appeared in the outdoor audience at the NBC Today Show in New York City on March 9, and received on-air congratulations messages from Willard Scott, Al Roker and Katie Couric.

“DONUTS FOR LIFE” SWEEPSTAKES: When Dunkin’ Donuts customers voted for their favorite donut in the national Donut Vote promotion, they automatically became eligible to be randomly drawn as the Grand Prize Winner of $50,000 or donuts for life. The “Donuts for Life” Sweepstakes continued the buzz from the National Donut Vote and capitalized on the wave of publicity surrounding the ongoing presidential campaign. On June 13, 2000 the winner was announced.  Catherine Donnelly, from the Washington, D.C. area, voted for Glazed and selected the $50,000 cash prize. Cone coordinated media interviews for Ms. Donnelly with Gazette Newspapers, and a wire photo of the winner appeared in eight newspapers in the D.C. area.

UNIQUE NEW PRODUCT INTRODUCTION: To further commemorate the celebration, Dunkin’ Donuts introduced two unique donut flavors that were only available during the month of March – Strawberry Shortcake and Black Forest. These new flavors were positioned as limited edition and exclusive to the 50th Anniversary. Cone delivered these donuts to key reporters around the country and reviews of the flavors appeared in major daily newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle and the New Haven Register, as well as major market broadcast media, including Today in New York on WNBC-TV and WNYW-TV, Fox New York.

RESULTS

The 50th Anniversary campaign achieved every objective set forth by the client.  Sales spiked the week of the Gold Shop event, reflecting an impressive sales increase of 9.9% same-store sales among reporting shops.  The program generated substantial consumer awareness by involving consumers and employees in the Gold Shop event festivities, the 5 Cent Mondays campaign and in the National Donut Vote sweepstakes.  The campaign also generated extensive national and local media coverage for the company.  

NATIONAL MEDIA: The entire campaign garnered more than 150,000,000 media impressions.  The following national placements were paramount to achieving the campaign’s objectives:

  • NBC’s Today Show host, Katie Couric handed out Dunkin’ Donuts outside the Today studio as the show went live on March 9.  The Cone team managed to secure more than four minutes of airtime on this highest-rated national morning show. 
  • NBC’s Weekend Today featured vintage Dunkin’ Donut boxes, coffee mugs and the “Dunkie’ the Donut” advertising character used by Dunkin’ Donuts in the 1950s on the “American Food of The Century” series on November 21, 1999. 
  • Bill Rosenberg appeared on Fox News Channel’s Fox and Friends, where he announced the 50th Anniversary along with help from a life-sized Dunkin’ Donuts coffee cup and donut character. 
  • CNBC’s The Edge interviewed Rosenberg focusing on his business philosophy. 
  • Newsweek focused on the Donut Vote campaign, closely noting which donuts were leading in the race. 
  • CBS’s The Early Show announced results of the Donut Vote -- Boston Kreme -- and discussed the origin of Munchkins.

LOCAL/REGIONAL MEDIA: The 50th Anniversary was covered by print and broadcast media in almost every major U.S. media market.

The Gold Shop event in Boston generated substantial broadcast and print media in Boston and across the country.  Photos with an accompanying article ran in the Boston Herald and Boston Globe, as well as numerous other daily newspapers across the U.S.  

As a result of a VNR of the Gold Shop event, 167 broadcast segments ran on the television news programs across the country during the week of the event.

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