This is the first in our series of netnographies on coffee brands, with Starbucks, Peet’s, and Philz Coffee to follow. We’ll have Insights for each brand, but the most complete analysis will come in the form of a summary post on the Ideal Coffee after we’ve looked at all four brands.

Dunkin’ Donuts (DD) may not have the cachet of other, more upscale brands, but it offers a wide selection of flavors and blends. Many consumers who’ve done their own personal taste tests also say DD coffee tastes better. But does it consistently taste better? That’s open to debate.

About Dunkin’ Donuts

Based in Canton, Mass. and founded in 1950, Dunkin’ Donuts is America’s largest retailer of coffee-by-the-cup, serving nearly 1.5 billion cups of brewed coffee each year. Dunkin’ Donuts is a market leader in the regular/decaf coffee, iced coffee, hot flavored coffee, donut, bagel and muffin categories. Dunkin’ Donuts has earned the No. 1 ranking for customer loyalty in the coffee category by Brand Keys for five years running. The company has more than 9,700 restaurants in 31 countries worldwide.

Positive Themes

Consumers like the variety of coffees available at DD.

  • I LOVE coffee — got hooked on the stuff when I worked for a coffee company! My favorites are Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut coffee, and Kona. I also like Jamacian Blue Mountain, but that a little too pricey. I also have a Senseo machine at home — YUM! (source)
  • I drink decaf. I love decaf Dunkin Donuts iced coffee!! I usually drink regular when not preggers. I am not so much a caffeine person as a coffee person. (source)
  • Way too pumped about the Dunkin Donuts Strawberry Shortcake ground coffee I just got. Tomorrow morning is going to be delightful. (source)

Coffee drinkers like the taste of DD’s coffee.

  • Walkable cities. Dunkin’ Donuts. Yes, I am aware that Dunkin’ Donuts iced lattes are more sugar than coffee, but they are so very delicious. (source)
  • All of these factors considered, I’ll ask again – Is Starbucks really worth it? I, personally, have no interest in waking up an hour earlier to grow old in line, memorize an insanely long name, spend my retirement fund and most likely get to work late.  I’m a Dunkin Donuts girl, myself. I my love of doughnuts combined with a delicious and light iced coffee make my day without breaking the bank or shaving time off my life. But everyone has their preferences, don’t they? (source)

People say DD coffee tastes better than other brands.

  • Can’t believe I’m going to admit this… But Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is superior to @Starbucks – there, I said it :-). (source)
  • I have decided that Dunkin Donut coffee IS the best coffee. Thought I would just buy Maxwell House this time. Not even close. (source)

Negative Themes

What’s the flip side of “good tasting”? You guessed it.

  • I wish dunkin donuts coffee didn’t taste like poison. I need coffee and I will get a cup , but I know I’m not gonna enjoy it. (source)
  • anybody go to the dunkin on western? i went and it was the worst coffee i’ve ever tasted, it tasted like bleach i need confirmation. (source)

Consumers find the quality of DD coffee to be inconsistent.

  • Dunkin’ Donuts franchises, however, are very bad at brewing coffee from them, [coffee beans] or at least achieve very nonuniform results. I’ve had DD coffee that was passable, but also (many times) DD coffee that was truly undrinkable. Unlike Starbucks, or even McDonald’s, they don’t seem to have managed to teach their personnel how to use the coffee beans to make coffee. (source)
  • Let me tell you. I’ve had Dunkin’ Donuts in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and not a god damn one of ’em can make a decent cup of iced coffee!!! Dunkin’ Donuts is overrated and overpriced. Best coffee I’ve had is at Cumberland Farms. 99 cents and it always comes out perfect because you make your own. (source)

“Bad for the body” is a common negative theme.

  • learned something new today–Dunkin Donuts Coffee Coolatas make me shaky & queasy because I drink them too fast–too much caffiene too fast. (source)
  • Mentions and buzz for Dunkin Donuts: http://sch.mp/0sK3rV – RT @brynnnn Dunkin Donuts coffee never fails to make me a nervous and jittery… (source)

Some consumers find the brand to be expensive.

  • I’ve been drinking Folgers Columbian blend lately, it’s good and the price is right. For the longest time I drank Community Coffee, which I love, but decided to try something cheaper. A couple of weeks ago I bought the Dunkin Doughnuts brand it’s pretty expensive though, and I like Folgers just as well….. (source)

Insights

Dunkin’ Donuts claims it serves “America’s Favorite Coffee,” and if the yardstick for that is sales, they have the facts to prove it. (See About DD above). But as we’ve noted many times before in netnographies where brand preference is a matter of personal taste, there are going to be opinions on both sides of a question. In the case of DD coffee, some people think it tastes great and has good quality, others think just the opposite.

The issue of consistency is one DD might want to investigate. Even many people who like the taste say in their social media posts that it can vary from restaurant to restaurant and even from day to day. To be fair, managing the lengthy supply and production chain from beans to cup is no easy job, and some variation is to be expected. Nevertheless, if enough consumers remark on the lack of consistency, DD might search out patterns in the complaints (“burnt and bitter,” “watered down,” “like bleach”) and see if they can find a cause and fix it.

One product and marketing strategy that’s clearly working well and keeps consumers coming back to DD instead of hopping from one brand to another is the great variety in flavors and blends—Iced Coffee, Iced Latte, Kona, Coolatta, Decaf, French Vanilla, Hazelnut and others all have their fans. If there’s a specific flavor or style of coffee you like best, apparently you don’t need to go anywhere other than Dunkin’ Donuts to find it.

About Our Approach

This case study is a form of social media analysis called a netnography—a qualitative, interpretive research methodology that adapts the traditional, in-person ethnographic research techniques of anthropology to the study of online communities.

To write this netnography, NetBase analyzed thousands of posts from consumers about the brand. The posts are automatically sorted into Positive or Negative classifications by our natural language processing (NLP) engine, then we manually sample those posts.

To summarize a netnography as we’ve done here, we distill our findings into useful insights about how the brand we studied is positioned and perceived. We can provide our source data and confidence intervals for the percentages in the theme charts upon request.