Dunkin’ Donuts’ Deep Digital Designs

There are some brands that are known for taking themselves a bit too seriously at times.

Starbucks, for example.

Starbucks also has a truly admirable commitment to improving the lives of its employees – and the well-being of the planet. And as a mobile payments innovator, well, they continue to crush it – just look at their last earnings report.

However, as good at that is, some of its employees say that while Starbucks is a great place to work, its “corporate culture at times, takes itself a little too seriously.”

Something that its biggest competitor, Dunkin’ Donuts, is happy to acknowledge they don’t necessarily aspire to do in the fast-paced and highly competitive business of keeping Americans caffeinated.

“It’s true that we do not get very high marks for our soundtrack and I don’t think anyone drinks our coffee because they are trying to save the world through the power of purchasing a latte. But we are getting increasingly known everywhere for having the best coffee — and we are happy to mark that as our start,” a Dunkin’ senior manager told PYMNTS.

“And over the last year — and this is to Starbucks’ credit even though we like to give them a hard time — we’ve seen how powerful a tool mobile can be for us — and we’ve really worked hard to completely change the experience for our customers around it.”

And Dunkin’ definitely likes to give Starbucks a hard time.

As Starbucks was upgrading its rewards program a few weeks ago, and pegging rewards to amount spent versus number of trips, Dunkin Donuts decided to roll out the redesign of its app with a particularly liberal hand in giving away bonus points and free drinks. The key to tapping into all those bonus points? Entering the promo code “STARS.”

If that was a little too subtle, try watching the video on Instagram of a Dunkin’ employee carelessly blowing a handful of gold stars to the wind.

Wocka, wocka, as Fozzie would say.

“It’s all in good fun of course and obviously good for generating some buzz for the new app launch, which is really the point. We are very aggressively looking at onboarding digitally and really using that as the new way that we keep connected with our customer and, more important, make it easy for customers to connect to us.”

Because, though their take on their rivals over at Starbucks is relatively light-hearted, the stakes when it comes to moving to digital are absolutely serious. As Scott Hudler, Vice President of Global Consumer Engagement of Dunkin’ Brands, noted in an interview late last year with Karen Webster, the landscape is changing very quickly, even for a business whose model is predicated on “Time to make the donuts” simplicity.

“I’m fortunate that organizationally this is something that we absolutely embrace — the importance of technology and how it changes everything, especially for a brick-and-mortar retailer like Dunkin’ Donuts,” Hudler said on the eve of the launch of Dunkin’ On-The-Go ordering platform at select locations in Portland, Maine.

Leveraging CARDFREE’s mobile payments platform, Dunkin’s On-The-Go platform was rolled out to 124 stores and allows Dunkin’s Perks loyalty members to order and pay ahead and simply pick up in-store.

That rollout got bigger and wider a few weeks ago — with mobile order and in-store pickup available as part of the latest app upgrade, though the service is not as yet universally available.

“We will be continually rolling this out throughout the year, and expect it to be available in most locations by this summer, and fully out by the end of 2016. We’ve seen extremely positive response among customers who’ve had access to the program, and we expect to see that trend continue as this goes nationwide.”

However, Dunkin’ Donuts doesn’t just want to catch up to Starbucks these days — it wants to do them one better and be just that much more convenient. Skipping the line is a good start, but not getting out of the car — well, that might just be better.

On their quarterly earnings call last week, Dunkin’ also announced it was experimenting with curbside delivery (for locations that don’t have drive-thrus).

That push to curbside is paired with early efforts in delivery from Dunkin’ Donuts, though that they do not intend to do it on their own, and instead are outsourcing to Door Dash and Favor.

“Having Dunkin’ delivered directly is something that we’ve seen time and again in customer surveys, and is really just a natural evolution of our offerings on mobile to our customers.”

Which  is really where Dunkin’s focus is: finding a way to keep their brick-and-mortar business digitally connected, while still attending to its core value proposition.

“Just like when Fred the Baker was going in, we’re still making fresh donuts multiple times a day and brewing fresh coffee around the clock. That part of the business is exactly the same as it was.”

As for the making fun of Starbucks part? Just an extra perk of being in the coffee business.