BrandIndex's coffee wars research in Ad Age article on Dunkin Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts Looks to New Executives to Keep Up Buzz

Seeking Fresh Perspective, C-Suite Changes Aim to Turn Focus to Operations

Mr. Travis, who previously ran Papa John's, has brought in Paul Twohig as brand operations officer, and John Costello as chief marketer. Mr. Twohig was previously with Starbucks, and has recently settled a lawsuit resulting from his hire, and Mr. Costello has held top marketing positions at Sears, Home Depot and Yahoo.

"The focus is going to be more on operations and the linkage with marketing," Mr. Travis said in an interview, about the changes to his C-suite. "I want to move this to be more of an operations-oriented company, which means several things. We need to provide our franchisees with all of the tools they need to run their business ... and we can ensure all of our operational standards are met."

Despite the sluggish economy, Mr. Travis said privately-held Dunkin' will open more locations than most competitors to grow sales. It's an impressive feat as Starbucks has continued to struggle, and once-surging Burger King has begun to slide. "Dunkin' has a lot going for them," Mr. Tristano said. "Strong brand loyalty, good marketing and advertising, and a good price point within the quick service [industry]. They're very poised to continue to grow through unit expansion and same-store sales."

Caffeinated brand
But competition has gotten much tougher and coffee consumption has been flat, according to Harry Blazer of the NPD Group. McDonald's launched McCafé in May, and even-lower-priced competitors like 7-Eleven have emerged. In terms of overall buzz, Dunkin remains well ahead of McDonald's and Starbucks, as measured by BrandIndex, with an average buzz rating in the 20s to low 30s, compared with a rating in the teens at McDonald's and the high single digits at Starbucks. And Dunkin' may have suffered less than some competitors as consumers cut back. An Experian Simmons survey of 25,000 adults said visits to Starbucks were down 4.5% for the year ended spring 2009, compared to a 1% drop for Dunkin' over the same period.