What’s In a Name

In the past two weeks, two major brands have announced brand makeovers that go as far as changing their names. Dunkin Donuts recently announced it will be dropping the word Donuts. They’ll still sell the breakfast treats, but the one-word name Dunkin’ aims to signify the chain’s increased focus on beverages, which make up 60% of the companies sales. Weight-loss brand Weight Watchers will become WW, with the tagline “Wellness that Works.”

Both have decades of brand heritage, Dunkin’ was founded in 1955 and WW in 1963, and both brands cite similar motives for their name change- to create a more modern image and align with the company’s future goals.

WW CEO Mindy Grossman said the company wouldn’t remove its focus from weight-loss, but their goal of “wellness for all” must look beyond that. WW’s name change stems from the desire to reimagine itself as a “technology experience company” competing with FitBit and Hello Fresh.

However, both companies take on the risk of losing touch with the identities that helped them become successful in the first place. WW built off of an endorsement with Oprah Winfrey, and was popular primarily with the 35+ age market, according to Grossman. A shift toward a social-media centered platform that caters to younger markets (evidenced by their DJ Khaled promotion) risks alienating their current segment in favor of a segment they may never land.

Dunkin’ CMO Tony Weisman says, “the reaction so far has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s just going to feel very familiar to people.”  However, the change may still pose a threat to future emotional connections. Marketing consultant Laura Ries warns that “Dunkin’” eventually won’t mean anything to younger customers who haven’t grown up with the full name.


What these changes ultimately question is brand equity, or the name and symbol which bring value to a firm and its customers. The subcomponents of brand equity are brand awareness, perceived quality, brand association, brand loyalty, and brand assets.

Dunkin’s brand awareness should remain relatively unaffected, as their iconic orange and pink colors with the same font are familiar and recognizable to consumers. However, WW touts a whole new logo, font, and color palette which may hinder brand awareness initially, as current consumers might not recognize the brand at all if they’re not told about the rebranding efforts.

Brand loyalty will be tested and proved in the future. Perhaps people embrace the brand’s new image, or perhaps it turns customers away.

Time will tell for WW, but Dunkin’ has already tested its shortened name at a few stores. These test stores featured tweaks like displaying doughnuts in bakery-style cases between the cashier and customer instead of racks behind the counter. CEO David Hoffman reportedthat doughnut sales improved at those shops.

As far as perceived quality, we can only hope that a Dunkin’ doughnut by any other name would taste as sweet.

From a marketing management perspective, here are some questions to think about:

  • What are some topics that might be discussed at a meeting to change a brand’s name? Who should be involved in that discussion?
  • What metrics would you use to test and measure brand perception after rebranding efforts?