When we hear the word “regular” most of us have the same idea of what that word means; it’s the normal, typical, consistent and most common. It also signals the kind of customer most people want to have.
But at Dunkin’ Donuts, it has an additional meaning – which is, coffee prepared in the way that is most often ordered. It’s not on a sign or menu anywhere, but serves as short-hand for ordering coffee “with cream.”
Good Taste Committee (and nutrition) aside, Dunkin’ Donuts is an unexpected case study in belonging. No matter what you may think of it, it is easy to recognize a Dunkin’ insider and understand what is important to them.
Dunkin’ Donuts opens at 5am, which tells you a lot about who needs coffee before the sun comes up (fisherman, students, landscapers, construction personnel, farmers, housekeepers, Wall Street traders).
Regardless of your order – egg sandwich or combo-pack – nothing takes more than 2 minutes to assemble. Which is about how much time regulars devote to breakfast. They usually eat it on the run, and Dunkin’ makes that possible.
Most franchises have a combination lock on the bathroom door, memorized by anyone who frequents that location. It rarely changes, so if you have to ask…you’ve identified yourself as a guest.
All locations brew a stronger-than-expected drip coffee that has surprised many of us who frequent non-franchised, more expensive, beaker-wielding establishments. The Dunkin’ customer wants a legitimate coffee, a consistent experience, and is more than happy to skip the baristas / bells and whistles.
Dunkin’ Donuts isn’t in my usual rotation, but when I find myself inside one (a reality of New England life), it’s pretty obvious who’s a visitor, and who belongs. I love how there’s always a couple of retirees in the corner, shooting the shizzle, or a postman standing next to a CEO; or a college student with her immigrant mother. The brand isn’t positioned around a socioeconomic group. Rather, it’s targeting a tribe with a shared affinity, despite its differences.
When I am there, I always kind of wish I was a regular.
I’d like to think that this desire to belong is a refreshing measure of a brand’s success. Whatever you may think of a place, and demographics aside, it’s interesting to notice that what unites our fans and followers can sometimes be surprising, and more revealing than any hard data.
Recognizing belonging – where you yourself are a regular – feels like a worthy step toward creating those places for others.