A Saturday Night Live sketch from over the weekend gave us an unexpected, if parodied, look at one of the biggest problems facing Dunkin’ Doughnuts as it attempts to ditch its low-brow reputation.
The sketch stars a disheveled Massachusetts-native Casey Affleck causing chaos in what would otherwise be a polished Dunkin’ Doughnuts commercial.
“You want to talk real Dunkin’ customers? That’s me. I’m like the mayor of Dunkin’ right here,” Affleck says in a thick Boston accent as he smokes a cigarette half inside the store, half outside.
On the surface, the skit is an amusing jab at Dunkin’ Doughnut’s New England everyman image — especially as it contrasts with Starbucks’ coffee snob reputation.
However, as Dunkin’ Doughnuts tries to ditch its time-honored image and expand its customer base beyond the Boston Bruins-loving Afflecks of New England, the sketch nails the challenges that the coffee chain is facing.
While Dunkin’ built its coffee empire as an inexpensive option for daily coffee drinkers in the Northeast, recently the chain has been taking notes from Starbucks’ playbook with a West Coast expansion, more expensive and highbrow beverages, and a new app (mentioned in SNL’s sketch). The contrast puts the chain at risk of an identity crisis of sorts.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and also one of the easiest ways to lose your identity,” Bloomberg’s Shelly Banjo wrote of Dunkin’s “identity crisis” in July.
Another problem is that while earning the coffee snob-approved image allows coffee shops to charge higher prices and win over new customers, it is hard to maintain an upscale reputation and also open thousands of locations. It’s a challenge even Starbucks is facing today, as the company attempts to double down on its premium image with its Roastery and Reserve brands.
As Dunkin’ tries to win over new customers, it risks losing the loyalty of the Casey Afflecks of the world — something that SNL captured perfectly.
Or, maybe we’re reading too much into a Saturday Night Live sketch. Watch it below and decide for yourself.
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