Did Someone Say Dunkin Donuts?

As promised, this post will look at an innovative way of emerging media through smells and sounds.

Dunkin’ Donuts, a name that is synonymous with fresh baked donuts on a daily basis. Yet, when founded in 1950 by Bill Rosenburg, the famous franchise was created as a one-stop shop for fresh coffee and baked goods. Dunkin’ Donuts was started by its’ founder in the city of Quincy, Massachusetts, with one goal in mind. That goal was to “make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and donuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores .” To a low-context culture like America, Dunkin’ Donuts symbolizes fresh coffee and donuts but to a high-context culture like S. Korea, Dunkin’ Donuts means what the name implies, donuts. So what advertising magic did Dunkin’ Donuts implement in the country of S. Korea to associate the brand with coffee along with donuts?

An advertising concept was created and implemented in 2012 to help Koreans make the association that Dunkin’ Donuts also serves fresh coffee. In order to drive more traffic to Dunkin’ Donuts stores, Dunkin’ Donuts Flavor Radio was created. This type of advertising mixes the essence of coffee aroma in the air on a bus and a radio message that is played stating that one can get fresh coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts close to their bus stop.  For greater emphasis, a bus stop ad may be displayed right at the stop as a reminder to departing passengers. This type of campaign helped Dunkin’ Donuts increase sales by 29% in addition to an increase of customers by 16%. The campaign worked with the help of a coffee aroma atomizer. Whenever the Dunkin’ Donuts radio ad, started to play, the atomizer installed on the chosen mode of public transportation, would spray a coffee aroma in the atmosphere. The ad would continue to play and as travelers sniffed the air; their senses were heightened in the areas of smell and sound.


As stated in the video, S. Korea has several coffee shops and/or businesses that serve coffee. In order for Dunkin’ Donuts to be able to compete with these other establishments, the marketing campaign utilizing smell with spoken word assisted in the brand recognition of Dunkin’ Donuts being more than just a baked goods restaurant. One cultural element that this type of ad appeals to is that of material life. Koreans know what they like for coffee products and are well aware that through naming conventions who serves fresh coffee. In order for Dunkin’ Donuts to be recognizable for fresh coffee in addition to baked goods, this marketing campaign assisted with associating familiar smell with brand name. Another important element utilized is language. By having actual Koreans speak on the radio ad, was vital in ensuring that no mistakes were made and/or misinterpretations of the message being relayed. The ad clearly stated the brand of what passengers were smelling and how close they were to be being able to visit the establishment once they left the bus. In other words, the ad stated that there was a convenient Dunkin’ Donuts in close proximity to their bus stop.

This type of advertisement proved to be successful for Dunkin’ Donuts as they were able to change and/or shift the opinions of citizens to realize that they can also purchase fresh coffee at their establishment. Through this type of marketing campaign, they were able to increase sales along with increasing foot traffic. They achieved the desired result of being more competitive with other coffee restaurants by setting themselves apart as being different but better.

It should also be pointed out that utilizing a smell medium is nothing new as there have been and still are print ads with scratch and sniff pages but definitely a step up in emerging from what was once the norm in having consumers buy into a specific brand or product. One should also remember that media does not always revolve around internet usage but by the various platforms of media that are considered traditional in essence but still can be very effective if utilized in a manner that speaks to their audience in a way that they can understand and grasp the content at hand.


5 thoughts on “Did Someone Say Dunkin Donuts?

  1. Wow, imagine if that occurred in the U.S. DD would really make bank with just that tactic alone. Quite an innovative way in gaining foot traffic that may be well known in one country for the products and services they provide but a little less known in another country.


  2. Just when you thought you have seen it all something new comes along. Flavor radio and coffee aroma being sprayed to help trigger people’s minds to go to Dunkin Donuts must be the first of its kind. This was a great ready and the video was very informative as well!


    • We experience sensory marketing all around us everyday, but it usually appeals to our sense of sight or sound, not smell. This is an awesome way for brands in the food and drink industry to attract new customers. Every time I drive past a Burger King I want a flame broiled beef patty, and every time I walk past a Subway I crave their fresh baked bread. Just think if these scents could be reproduced in my living room… then I might have a serious fast food problem! 😉 Great post!


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