Dunkin' is dropping the donuts — from its name, anyway.
Doughnuts are still on the menu, but the company is renaming itself "Dunkin'" to reflect its increasing emphasis on coffee and other drinks.
The 68-year-old chain has toyed with the idea for a while. In 2006, it released a new motto — "America runs on Dunkin' — that didn't mention doughnuts. Last fall, it tested the "Dunkin'" logo on a new store in Pasadena, Calif.; it has put the name on a few other stores since then.
"By simplifying and modernizing our name, while still paying homage to our heritage, we have an opportunity to create an incredible new energy for Dunkin'," the company's chief marketing officer, Tony Weisman, said in a statement.
Coffee and sandwiches have become increasingly important to the Canton, Mass.-based chain, which has more than 12,500 restaurants globally. In the second quarter of this year, the company noted that overall U.S. store traffic was down, but revenue was up thanks to sales of higher-margin iced coffee drinks and breakfast sandwiches.
The name change will officially take place in January, when it will start appearing on napkins, boxes and signs at U.S. stores. The change will eventually be adopted by international stores.
The new logo will still have Dunkin' Donuts' familiar rounded font and orange-and-pink color scheme, which the company has used since 1973.
Dunkin' says the name change is one of several things it's doing to stay relevant to younger customers. It's also simplifying its menu and adding dedicated mobile ordering lanes.
But the name change could be a big mistake, says Laura Ries, an Atlanta-based marketing consultant.
Ries said "Dunkin'" eventually won't mean anything to younger customers who haven't grown up with the full name. Specific words are easier for people to remember and conjure emotional connections, she said. Having "Donuts" in the name is also easier for people in overseas markets who may not know what "Dunkin'" means.
Messing with iconic brands can also have consequences. In 2016, 15 years after replacing Kentucky Fried Chicken with KFC, the company had to issue a news release to combat an online rumor that it was forced to change its name because it doesn't serve real chicken.
And IHOP faced some backlash earlier this summer when it announced it was changing its name to IHOb to remind customers that it serves burgers as well as pancakes. That one was a publicity stunt, but it annoyed some customers.
Dunkin' Donuts' Chief Marketing Officer Tony Weisman said the company has done a lot of testing and doesn't expect any customer backlash from the decision.
"The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive," Weisman said. "It's just going to feel very familiar to people."
But Reis said even if doughnuts have fallen out of favor among a more health-conscious customer base, people already know Dunkin' Donuts as a place where they can just get coffee and enjoy the doughnuts' smell.
"There's nothing wrong with still having 'Donuts' in your name," she said. "Long term it was helping them, giving them a brand identity that was the opposite of Starbucks."