Dunkin' Donuts goes after the Starbucks formula

Dunkin' Donuts' new Fresh Brew concept.

Exterior of Dunkin' Donuts' new design concept.

Dunkin' Donuts is redesigning its stores to look more like Starbucks -- despite the fact that in recent years, Dunkin' has had heavy marketing campaigns against the latter, including a T-shirt that read, "Friends Don't Let Friends Drink Starbucks."

"But Dunkin' Donuts is learning a lot from Starbucks, including the idea that specialty coffee experience is like retailing -- you better keep the merchandise and the surroundings fresh," said Harvard's Nancy Koehn. "The interesting thing is: 'America Runs on Dunkin',' right? They've made their name on being a cup of joe, quickly, to-go. So this is a big turnabout."

And Koehn said if she were sitting up in Starbucks' Seattle headquarters, she might be worried.

"Because again, this has been two very different companies. And one of them -- Dunkin' Donuts -- has used advertising very, very aggressively to fire a lot of salvos over the bow of Starbucks," she said. "But now suddenly everything that Starbucks represents, and the whole brand promise -- now Dunkin' Donuts wants a healthy piece of that."

About the author

Nancy Koehn is a historian at the Harvard Business School.

Exterior of Dunkin' Donuts' new design concept.

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