How Dunkin’ Brands Learned To Build Better Relationships Through Location

Former president John Costello talked about creating a one-to-one mobile dialogue — and why the bar for relevancy in marketing is higher than ever.

If there was a central theme to the presentations at xAd’s On Location event, it could probably be summed up thusly: Location data is the key to understanding the consumer mindset when it comes to both real-time decisions and predicting future behavior.

But as John Costello, former Dunkin’ Brands president and current chairman of the MMA’s board of directors, explained, “big data” is still overwhelming to marketers — and building a mobile strategy that truly forges a one-to-one brand/consumer relationship is easier said than done.

Following his session, Costello sat down with GeoMarketing to elaborate on his mobile insights for marketers in the true “age of location.”

GeoMarketing: One of the key points in your presentation was that demographics are not a great predictor of the consumer journey; context and actions tell the real story. With this in mind, how should brands approach reaching the right consumers across devices? 

John Costello: I think demographics are a good place to start. But at the end of the day, what I’m finding is that behavior — what people actually do — is a better predictor than what they say they’ve done.

A good example is this: If you ask somebody if they are loyal to a brand, whether that’s Dunkin’ Donuts or Crest toothpaste, you’re asking them to recall their loyalty. This kind of demographic and survey data could be a good place to start, but I think past behavior gives a better representation of future behavior. So what’s fascinating is that, with xAd, we can look at a category and see that people recalled that they visited three brands but they actually visited five brands. There hasn’t always been this kind of deep information about real-world behavior.

The combination of mobile with location data has created the first opportunity for us to connect demographics with real behavior. I think the other benefit of location and mobile is the ability for brands to react based on real-time data; it lets you build a true one-to-one relationship with consumers. But with that, I think, comes the pressure to provide even more relevant messaging.

With great power comes great responsibility: Consumers today have much higher expectations for relevancy and personalization. 

Exactly. The way I would describe it is when you’re broadcasting [an ad spot] on TV, you’re broadcasting out. With a one-to-one relationship, I think marketing becomes more like a dialogue with a friend. And that needs to be more authentic, more relevant, and more timely.

How did that play out in your time at Dunkin’? How did you use contextual location to build those authentic relationships with consumers? 

Well, “America runs on Dunkin'” is more than a tagline: It’s a brand purpose that states that Dunkin’s mission is to get people running in the morning and keep them running all day long. So we translated that into asking, “how do you build a mobile [experience] that’s really relevant?”

One of the first things that we built in the mobile app was a store locator, so you can find your [local] Dunkin’. Then [we realized] that Dunkin’ is primarily a brand for consumers on the way to work, which led to asking, “what’s the biggest problem on the way to work?” Traffic. And out of that came our partnership with Waze. If you’re stuck in traffic and want to get a cup of coffee, guess what pops up? Dunkin’.

The other piece — and this is true for a lot of brands — is finding out what the moment of truth is; where is the purchase decision made? For Dunkin’, it’s a question of “where do I stop on the way to work?” For a different consumer product, it may be standing in front of the shelf at a grocery store. By understanding the moment of truth you can be more relevant and more topical. Again, for Dunkin’, Dunkin’ has fabulous brand loyalty, but it tends to be loyalty to the local Dunkin Donuts.

Not the brand as a whole.

Right, not to the big global company. Well, then, the question is, how do you market to people around that restaurant? Location data can make this precise.

A good example is if someone lives in Town A and works in Town B, we have a lot of theories about where they could stop for a cup of coffee: Is it right after they left for work, or is it when they get there? Location data can tell us that.

In any case, mobile has the potential to be the most transforming marketing technique we’ve seen in our lifetime, and, I think, location lets it become even more powerful. I think we’re just now beginning to see the upside potential of that, so it’s pretty exciting.

About The Author
Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.