Dunkin’ Donuts Drops DONUTS Says Call Us Dunkin

"Dunkin Donuts restaurant with new Dunkin logo"

On the heels of the Weight Watchers’ rebrand to the acronym WW, Dunkin’ Donuts announced that it is dropping the term DONUTS from its mark. Starting in January, the doughnut shop will roll out a new logo, store signage, and advertising, but will keep its orange and pink color scheme. But the change is not sitting well with all Dunkin patrons who have a connection to the misspelled DONUT, which is created when the brand launched in 1950.

Ordinarily, deleting non-distinct matter from a composite trademark does not affect the overall commercial impression of the mark. In fact, the Trademark Manual of Examining Procedures states that non-distinct matter should be excluded from a trademark drawing when an application is filed. But something is being lost in the DUNKIN’ DONUTS case because over the years consumers have come to recognize the misspelled word as indicating Dunkin’ Donuts as the source of goods or services displaying that term. And consumers are capable of identifying the same source through more than one trademark. So it seems like Dunkin’ Donuts is losing something by dropping the misspelled DONUTS from its mark.

Dunkin’ Donuts said the reason for dropping DONUTS is to highlight a wider array of menu items and appear to a younger generation. Vox reported what it perceives as a trend for established brands to rebrand to something more “vague.” In the case of an established brand dropping a non-distinctive term like in the case of JO-ANN FABRICS rebranding to just JOANN, the mark is not getting more vague. It retains the distinctive portion that consumers rely on to identify the source of the goods or services.

A trademark is not supposed to say everything about a company’s business. That is what advertising copy is for. The trademark is supposed to represent the reputation of the company, and serve as an indicator of the quality of the goods or services. In other words, when consumers see DUNKIN’ they don’t need to immediately know that the company sells doughnuts, coffee, sandwiches, salads, etc. When they see the term DUNKIN on, for example, a rice cake, they will presume the rice cake is delicious because of their positive experience with the DUNKIN brand.

Does an Acronym Make a Good Name and Trademark

"Weight Watchers' new logo the acronym WW Wellness that Works"

Weight Watchers announced its rebranding to WW and the launch of a new tagline Wellness that Works, which set off the debate about whether this was a wise move. Weight Watchers was founded in 1963 and currently operates in about 30 countries around the world. The company’s mission was to help participants lose weight by forming helpful habits, eating smarter, getting more exercise, and providing support.

In March of this year, Weight Watchers announced that it intended to enter the competitive meal kit market with the likes of Blue Apron. It was reported that this step was part of CEO Mindy Grossman’s vision of rebranding the company as healthy lifestyle brand. The move to WW that stands for Wellness that Works instead of Weight Watchers is another move in the rebranding plan. But if the decision was made to move entirely away from the brand that has been used for over 50 years, moving to an acronym may not have been the best choice.

Whether you are moving to a similar acronym or an entirely new word or phrase, you will have to spend some significant money to educate the market about your new name. Distinctiveness is an important characteristic of any new name. In the naming context, distinctiveness lets you stand out from the crowd. And in the legal context, distinctiveness provides broader protectable rights.

Accordingly Acronym Finder, there are 81 different WW acronyms. There are also 202 registered trademarks for WW in the United States Patent and Trademark Office database. Not all of these registrations are in the healthy lifestyle space, but it demonstrates that consumers are exposed to a lot of WW acronyms. As a new acronym just starting out, that mean a lot of effort educate the market what your WW stands for.

Acronyms also do not solve conflicts with prior registered marks, which could be increased because of the sheer number of acronyms that are registered. Time will tell whether it was a smart move to walk away from 50 years of prior use of Weight Watchers in favor a new WW acronym or if it could have been possible to create new brand messaging using the well-known Weight Watchers mark.

If At First You Don’t Succeed, Start the Rebranding Process

"times square at night showing the rebranding process"

The rebranding process is often times easier said than done, but it should not be considered an off-limits concept. Especially for startups who may not have the money to pay for professional naming services, it may be that the name you adopt does not resonate with your customer base. The foolish thing that any business can do is to recognize a bad decision but to stubbornly not make the necessary changes. The smart business decision is to start working on the rebranding process – maybe this time with some professional naming help.

If you find yourself in a situation where the rebranding process is necessary, you don’t have to feel alone. Some of the worlds largest companies went through a rebrand.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, originally launched the search engine under the BACKRUB name. After a year of living with BACKRUB, the name was changed to GOOGLE.

Richard Schulze, the founder of Best Buy, opened his first electronics store under the name SOUND OF MUSIC. However, after a tornado forced Mr. Schulze to run a large sale of the damaged merchandize promising “best buys,” which was a huge success, the company’s name was officially changed to BEST BUY.

Steve Case, the founder of AOL, launched the online bulletin board under the name QUANTUM COMPUTER SERVICES. This name stayed with the company while it acquired more than 100,000 members, but was eventually changed to AOL.

Caleb Bradham, the inventor of Pepsi, originally branding the soda BRAD’S DRINK, but about five years later rebranded it Pepsi-Cola. PayPal was originally CONFINITY. Blackberry was originally called RESEARCH IN MOTION. And Yahoo was originally called – take a breath – JERRY AND DAVID’S GUIDE TO THE WORLD WIDE WEB.

There are other examples that could have been included, but the point is that business owners should not be afraid to change course on a name if the name originally chosen is not working. Just make sure you conduct a trademark search on the new name first.