Dunkin' Donuts brings on Formula PR for California expansion

Dunkin' Donuts sought an agency to help with local PR as it expands into California.

Photo credit: Dunkin' Donuts Facebook page
Photo credit: Dunkin' Donuts Facebook page

CANTON, MA: Dunkin’ Donuts has selected Formula PR to help the brand engage consumers and media as it expands into California.

The agency, which began working on the business earlier this month, went up against seven other firms in the final round of the RFP, said Justin Drake, PR manager for Dunkin’ Brands.

RF|Binder Partners still serves as the national AOR for Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as the local agency for the Boston and New York markets, he added.

As the company continues to grow its national footprint, it wants "boots on the ground in terms of local PR, which is why we selected Formula for our California expansion," Drake explained.

Formula stood out in the review process because of its creativity, enthusiasm, understanding of the brand, and traditional PR and social media expertise, he said. The agency’s Formula Street arm, which focuses on sampling programs, and its Formulatin Hispanic-focused sister firm were also major factors in the decision.

Dunkin’ Donuts will open stores in Santa Monica, Long Beach, Whittier, Downey, and Modesto, California before the end of the year, said Drake. Formula is tasked with handling outreach for the grand openings and creating buzz through traditional and social media.

The agency, which has offices in New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego, will engage food, lifestyle, and local market bloggers and reporters to build excitement around the store openings, said Formula president Michael Olguin.

The account team of five staffers will also work on samplings of the brand’s coffee and food items, he said.

"The biggest thing is to leverage the awareness and knowledge that exists on the East Coast and transplant it to the West Coast," explained Olguin.

Dunkin’ Donuts, which once had about a dozen locations in California before closing them in the 1990s, operates three "non-traditional" stores in the state in the Embassy Suites San Diego Bay Downtown, the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and the Barstow Railroad Station between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Drake said.

The company has major expansion plans throughout California, including an agreement with franchisees to open nearly 200 stores in the next few years, he added. The brand’s long-term goal is to open 1,000 locations in the state.

While the company’s initial leap into the California market failed 20 years ago, Drake said this time is different because Dunkin’ Donuts has "improved a lot of processes around franchisee recruitment, partner selection, and site selections for stores."

The brand has also expanded its menu offerings over the years, and it has used a US growth strategy that focuses on state-by-state expansion "instead of hopping around," Drake added.

The company already has a presence in Phoenix, Arizona, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada, said Drake. Dunkin’ Donuts has nearly 11,000 stores across 33 countries, according to its website.

Formula’s contract with Dunkin’ Donuts is initially for one year. Budget information was not disclosed.

In addition to its work with the coffee brand, the agency will promote Dunkin’ Brands’ Baskin Robbins program called Celebrate 31 in Los Angeles. The effort, which focuses on the ice cream company’s 31 flavors, will offer consumers one scoop of ice cream for $1.31 on July 31, August 31, October 31, and December 31. Media outreach for the effort kicked off this week, said Drake.

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