2008 PR News Platinum PR Issue Winner: Re-Branding/Re-Positioning

The winners and honorable mentions in this year's PR news Platinum PR awards issue exemplify the most innovative approaches to redefining traditional PR with anything-but- traditional strategies. From a marketing communications effort that united a country over the search for the stars of a 1950s TV commercial to an event that landed a flock of pink flamingos around the windy city, the following winner confirms that the PR profession has indeed stepped out from the shadows to take a front-and-center role in delivering business results to their own organizations, and to their clients. Below is the winner of the 2008 PR News Platinum PR award for re-branding/re-positioning.

RF|Binder Partners & Dunkin' Donuts

Brewing Brand Awareness in a Highly Competitive Environment

It's a dog-eat-dog world for coffee retailers, and it was no exception for Dunkin' Donuts. The company enjoyed a following of loyal customers, but the business world still viewed it as a local doughnut chain, rather than the world's largest retailer of hot and iced coffee. To change this perception, and to position itself as the place for quick, affordable and high-quality coffee, Dunkin' Donuts partnered with RF|Binder Partners to initiate a coffee groundswell.

Brewing a Fresh Brand

The team identified its first priority as informing consumers that Dunkin' Donuts sold the most cups of coffee per day in America, thus making them an expert. This message would then serve as the foundation for additional talking points, including convenience and affordability for customers, and tremendous growth potential for business leaders.

"Leveraging a mix of proactive and reactive announcements, informational materials, interviews and mailings, [the team] contacted key media on an almost daily basis to remind them that Dunkin' is the number one retailer of regular coffee, and an alternative for customers who are tired of long waits and high prices associated with the competition," says Josh Gitelson, senior managing director at RF|Binder. "Without ever mentioning competitors' names in any materials or pitch, we helped media to compare Dunkin' to other brands by providing research showing that customers are wary of brands that don't provide the flexibility and speed busy people demand."

This research, as well as partnerships with celebrity brand ambassadors Rachel Ray and renowned chef Stan Frankenthaler, established the company's coffee credentials. Then, the team leveraged new product innovation to demonstrate that the brand was coffee-centric. A "free iced coffee day" on March 21, 2007, gave consumers the opportunity to experience the brand's coffee; a "Running of the Cups" event, held in conjunction with the leary firefighters foundation, promoted Dunkin' as a summer iced beverage destination.

Caffeine Buzz

The team successfully repositioned the Dunkin' Donuts brand, with ongoing media coverage that consistently cites the company as a hot coffee chain--and a challenger to coffee retail darling starbucks.

"When trying to change perceptions, creativity and persistence are key. Teams must be open to trying new and exciting ways to generate interest and awareness," Gitelson says. "Beyond straight media relations, some of our favorite activities that we created and implemented, and the ones that ultimately made perhaps the biggest impact, were born from a shared drive to think differently and try new things."