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Dunkin' Brews Up Cross-Generational Buzz With This Odd Celebrity Pairing The brand's recent campaign featuring a Gen X actor and a Gen Z rapper is winning over customers of all ages, and helped land them at #6 on this year's Franchise 500.

By Carl Stoffers Edited by Frances Dodds

This story appears in the January 2024 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Courtesy of Dunkin'

To view our entire 2024 Franchise 500 list, including category rankings, click HERE

Started Franchising: 1955

Total Units: 13,372

Cost to Open: $437.5K-$1.8M

Dunkin' seems to have reached a tippin' point.

First of all, there's growth: Dunkin' fell out of our Top 10 in 2022 (it was No. 11) after its units dropped; that wasn't long after its acquisition by Inspire Brands, which was clearly making some changes. But now its growth is back in positive territory — with 9,339 U.S. franchises and 4,033 international ones — which helped secure Dunkin' a spot in our Top 10 for the 15th time in 20 years.

And there's another big shift at Dunkin' — an increasing presence in American culture.

"The brand is just in the conversation," says Scott Murphy, Dunkin's president. "Whether it's Saturday Night Live or on the nighttime talk shows or in music or social media, it just really feels in the fabric of things now."

Related: West Coast, Get Ready — Dunkin' Is Coming, and It's Bringing 'Insta-Ready' Gen Z Drinks With It

A key to that growth is its partnership with Ben Affleck, who grew up near Boston and is a verifiable Dunkin' fan (or "Dunkies" fan, as they call it in Beantown). First, there was a Super Bowl ad featuring Affleck as an inept Dunkin' worker with real customers (and Jennifer Lopez). "We ran it once and got 7 billion media impressions, and it kind of kickstarted the year," Murphy says.

But the company noticed something in the analytics: The commercial resonated strongly with the 50-year-old demographic, but less so with kids. So Dunkin' did something radical when the time came to promote its latest product — teaming Affleck with Gen Z rapper Ice Spice for another ad to highlight its Ice Spice Munchkins Drink. The odd-couple-type pairing resonated widely; Murphy says it helped lead to more than 70 billion total media impressions in 2023, three times as many as in 2022.

That helped Dunkin' grapple with its next big challenge:

The brand must constantly introduce itself to a new generation of coffee-drinkers. "I want to be people's first sip of coffee," Murphy says, "but without ostracizing the 82-year-old who wants a decaf coffee and a corn muffin."

Of course, marketing can only do so much — and Dunkin' is investing heavily in new products, too. That includes everything from new breakfast tacos this past spring, the fan-favorite butter pecan swirl being permanently added to the menu in April, a line of boozy iced coffees and iced teas that began rolling out in August, and new salted caramel creamer in the fall.

"For sure we've got great products and great beverages," Murphy says, "but there's something about our brand that America is rooting for us to win, because we've been that wingman to people as they go through life."

Related: Want to Own Many Businesses? These Are the Best 150 Franchises for Multi-Unit Owners.

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Carl Stoffers

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Business Editor

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