Bucking the Trend – Why the Dunkin’ Brands are Staying Apolitical


David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

The United States is more polarized politically then anytime since the Civil War.  Social media and the 24/7 news cycle have all contributed to the current political divisions.  We hear constantly of families being divided over politics.  Our political divisions have even poured over into consumer purchasing habits.  Today’s consumers expect that a brand they use will reflect their political and social values.  We all know Starbucks is considered a liberal brand.  Chick-fil-A is considered a conservative brand.  That is why Dunkin’ Brand which owns both Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins made news when company executives announced during a panel at the 2019 International Trademark Association (INTA) meeting in Boston that they were taking a stand against politicizing their brand.  Executives even went so far as to say, Dunkin’ Brand isn’t Starbucks.  This means that they will not make contributions to organizations on the left such as Planned Parenthood, nor discounts to those on the right such as the National Rifle Association.

Bucking the Trend - Why the Dunkin' Brand is Staying ApoliticalSo a brand bucking the popular tend and not taking a political stand?  Right? No, the complete opposite.  Despite claiming, that Dunkin’ Brand is apolitical and does not take political stands, the brand actually took a political stand by not taking a political stand.

First Dunkin’ Brand announced that they are not Starbucks.  Company executives will argue that what they meant is that they do not take political stands.  Yet to social media, what Dunkin’ Brand’s announcement meant was that if they are not Starbucks, then they must be conservative leaning.  Twitter is afire with conservatives praising Dunkin’ Brand and urging people to frequent the company.  Likewise on Twitter, liberals are either silent or taking barbed shots at the company.

Secondly, we have seen a political reaction to the announcement.  Conservative politicians are heaping praise on Dunkin’ Brand for their brave stand.  One the other hand, some progressive politicians are now saying they will never frequent anything owned by Dunkin’ Brand again.

Finally, by claiming they are not Starbucks, Dunkin’ Brand took a calculated move.  They knew in this polarized political environment what such an announcement would do and made it.  Many view the comment as a hit on Starbucks and a direct appeal to conservatives.  The result is the brand will now be the favored brand of conservatives.

Brands can claim they are apolitical, but today’s consumers will not accept that.  Even by claiming to be apolitical, a brand is taking a stand in the public’s mind.  As our political divisions deepen, we can expect even more brands and companies regardless of size to take a stand on one side or the other of the political spectrum.

David E. Johnson: #MuellerReport - Managing the 'Spin' GameAbout the Author: David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and public affairs agency.  Additional information on him and company may be obtained at www.strategicvisionpr.com.

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