Dunkin Donuts vs. Starbucks – a cultural battlefield


Dunkin vs. Starbucks. Coffee vs. Latte. Lee Dungarees vs. Seven for all Mankind. PC vs. Mac. HHG2G vs. Bill and Ted. Carhartt vs. Patagonia. NexTel vs. WiFi.

The Boston Phoenix rolls out a very rough sociological analysis to explain the fierce appeal of Dunkin’ Donuts in the NorthEast U.S., and supports it with insightful and amusing quotes. All in “Choosing Our Religion: how one little post-war doughnut shop became synonymous with Boston’s identity.”

There are some good comments from Bryant Simon, a Temple University prof who is researching a book on Starbucks – by visiting 300 stores over 6 continents.

“On the other hand, Dunkin’ sometimes seems to keep certain, perhaps more culturally loaded aspects of itself under wraps — or at least keep them understated. “All of Dunkin’ Donuts espresso drinks are fair-trade coffee,” Simon points out. “But all they do is put a little circle [fair trade symbol] on the door.” It’s as if they want to do the right thing, he says, but also know that “their customers don’t like all that value-added shit.”

In the end, after all, “this is about perception. McDonalds is trying to compete against Starbucks — going wireless, putting fireplaces in — but Dunkin’ is realizing they can position themselves differently,” says Simon. He asked one Dunkin’ higher-up if there were plans in place to add Wi-Fi. “No, he said, because the last thing he wants is guys in trucks, getting their coffee, to walk in and have no place to sit because there’s a bunch of people in ties banging away on their laptops.”

Meanwhile, Kevin at Strategic Public Relations is handing out a lot of link love while suggesting how the “Starbucks as Storyteller” brand attribute can be strengthened.

I’ve referred to Dunkin Donuts before:

And if you want to go old school, I commented on how Tim Hortons handled their media relations on my old Blogspot site.
[tags] Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Boston culture, other place, third place [/tags]

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  • swag

    Dunkin Donuts vs. Starbucks? For some of us, this is like having to vote in an election of Dick Cheney vs. George Bush.

    03/03/07 – 5:09 am

  • Colin

    Thanks, but I don’t get the difference. Is that like a poor choice between two alternatives, or an simply an acceptable choice for someone who loves coffee?

    Depends whether you’re a Republican or not ….

    03/03/07 – 7:41 am

  • Kevin Dugan

    Colin: McD’s is trying to get listed as the third choice in this race. In addition to offering a higher end coffee, they’re making their stores over into places you might actually enjoy hanging out in for awhile.

    And I think it is also helping fuel Schultz’ sleepless nights.

    03/03/07 – 12:09 pm

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