As this new year begins, you might notice something is missing. In late 2018, Dunkin’ Donuts announced it would shorten its name to Dunkin’ as part of an overhaul to emphasize its beverages and products beyond fried dough confections. Chief Marketing Officer of 15 months Tony Weisman has overseen the effort as Americans embrace coffee as an all-day beverage. For this GenPop CMO Q&A, Weisman wanted to know why, “Sorry, I haven’t had my coffee yet,” is the universal explanation for when people aren’t working at their best.
GenPop: Why did you ask that?
Tony Weisman: Coffee is consumed daily by two-thirds of all Americans. All the time, you see t-shirts and coffee cups with “Speak to me after I’ve had my coffee.” As a place that prides itself on getting Americans off to a good start and attacking the day with a sense of optimism, I think we need to spend more time understanding what is underneath that idea.
GenPop: Our survey results showed that a lot of people use the lack of coffee as an excuse for not being their best. But people also are willing to give them that pass. Ironically, people who say they are heavy coffee drinkers were less willing than others to give people a pass.
Weisman: There’s a little bit of “coffee is ubiquitous” in that. If you haven’t gotten coffee, it’s not like it wasn’t available. If you really believe that having coffee to start your day is important–and I think people do–there’s no excuse.
GenPop: Millennials tend more to drink coffee over multiple occasions over the day. What does that tell you?
Weisman: Generationally, older Americans graduated as children from milk and juice to soda. When you had your first Coke, it was a rite of passage. You’d go out to dinner with your family and you’re 11-years-old and Mom says, “Sure you can order a Coke instead of milk.” That was a big deal.
Younger Americans graduated in their teens to coffee and espresso and flavored waters and the like. Adolescents today are having a Frappuccino or Coolatta or iced coffee from us. That’s part of the adolescent journey. It’s becoming a much more regular part of their daily lives at a much earlier age than it used to be.
GenPop: How else do you think America’s coffee culture is changing?
Weisman: What’s Interesting to me is these “trade shows” that were once exclusively the domain of coffee shop owners have become very popular with consumers. Coffee has emulated things like fashion where the machine you use to grind or the cup you use have started to become statements about you the way fashion has. It’s become very similar to wine. We all know individuals who take wine very seriously. The same has become true of coffee. They’re very interested in and passionate about the entire supply chain.
GenPop: Some food and beverage companies are exploring cannabis and you’re in a state where there’s a lot going on there. What can you tell us about your company on that?
Weisman: All I could really say is that every business today is trying to figure out what their connection to cannabis should be, whether it’s in the CBD or the like. Everyone’s trying to figure out what the right path is. But we’re all expecting adoption to continue.
GenPop: How is your approach to understanding the consumer evolving?
Weisman: You have to work harder today ever than you ever did to understand consumer trends and you have to use different tools. For me, that means things like staying very connected to social media and communities. We all know that there are certain communities that tend to be trend-starters so you’re paying very careful attention to consumer trends within those communities.
I’ve been in this business for a long time where everybody knows that the winners are the ones who see it coming first or see it coming earlier. That used to be from your focus groups and your panels or white papers. Now the world is that somebody is trying something in a six-seat pop-up in Brooklyn. Social media is going to help you find it sooner than any other way and that’s great.
I also talked to my teams about that. This, to me, is not the province of the research team or the insights team. I think that’s a big change in the world. Anybody who is on Instagram or Twitter can pay attention. And everybody has kids and relatives or friends, etcetera, who are particularly attuned, and your job is to stay attuned to them.
GenPop: You mentioned optimism as your communication focus. How does that manifest?
Weisman: It manifests in our updated and refreshed brand, which is pink and orange and white and bright. We dropped the brown [in the logo and store colors]. A lot of cafes take their branding cues from the product itself and brown in our assessment is very serious. We take our business seriously, but we like to think of our selves as a fun, light, optimistic brand.
We are the on-the-go brand. We think that makes us an optimistic brand on your side and along with you on your journey as opposed to lingering in our place.