Lessons in Marketing: Today Brought to You by Dunkin' Donuts

Dunkin' Donuts has recently been running a commercial (I couldn't find it on YouTube, so you will have to bear with me) where a typical putz tries to impress two lovely ladies he is with by defining 'artisanal.' His (incorrect) analysis of the Latin- and Greek- rooted components of the word is offered in response to their enjoyment of New Dunkin' Artisan Bagels!

Now I know that the terms artisan and artisanal has been diluted over the past decade or so. Something that used to (and still does in some quarters) roughly mean a person expertly making hand-crafted goods in small batches using traditional methods now means that real wheat is used and grains are sprinkled over the top before the subject good is baked. I guess we can blame the Paneras and Starbucks of the world for this shifting definition among the masses. However, neither of those companies has gone so far as to point out that the word artisan does have a meaning that is rooted in something entirely different than what they are using it for (suffice to say it has nothing to do with the type of mass-production which is of course a necessary component of any big-chain product roll-out).

Of course this might not all matter at some level. At the point of sale, if someone wants a bagel, they will get one, whether it is called artisan or whether there are fancy grains baked on top or not. This is probably especially true for the die-hard Dunkin' customers. That said, it must matter a little; otherwise Dunkin's shareholders wouldn't tolerate money being spent on both product development and advertising.

If the folks at Dunkin' ever asked me (and of course they won't) I guess what I might say is that selectively introducing 'artisanal' products to go head to head with Starbucks while retaining the donuts and saccharine sweet coffees that differentiate the companies is probably a strong move. Taking advantage of public perceptions of what artisanal means these days is no sin, particularly if your competitors were responsible for that shifting paradigm. However, that said, artisan still means something to some people, many of which could be potential customers. Therefore I might not go quite so far in brazenly pointing out that your products aren't exactly what you say they are...

p.s. - I happen to be a fan of Dunkin', Starbucks and Panera and have favorite products at all of these publicly-traded companies. This doesn't mean we can't have some fun discussing the butcherings of the English, French, Latin, Greek, or any other language, which are undertaken by each.


  1. Anonymous19/4/12 10:20

    In defense of Dunks (and I haven't seen the commercial), their ad would be a complete defense against some frivolous claim of false advertising for using the name "artisan" to describe mass-produced breakfast food. More importantly, by pointing out their own product's foibles in an amusing way, Dunks inoculates its "artisan" brand against criticism of its inapt name.

    I'm reminded of the old Apple Jacks commercials: "It doesn't taste like apples!" "So? We like it!"

  2. Thanks for the comment.

    While I was of course discussing this from a marketing-to-those-who-might-pick-up-on-this-type-of-thing angle, you are quite right to point out that there are some legal and other benefits resulting from this approach.

    Perhaps a sharp mind such as your own in the Dunkin' legal department caught this and that is what gained the campaign the green light, though I highly doubt the folks in the ad department picked up on such positive externalities.

    In any case, mass-produced artisan products are here to stay...maybe it is more appropriate for people like you and me to get used to the changing definition of the term than it is for me to complain about the oxymoronic nature of the usage?

    By the way, thanks for that Apple Jacks reference...it brought a smile to my face heading into the weekend.