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Published: Aug 04, 2017 4 min read
Operations Inside A Dunkin Donuts Inc. Restaurant Location
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dunkin' is losing its "Donuts."

Don't worry: You'll still be able to get donuts at all Dunkin' locations. But the Massachusetts-based donut-and-coffee chain, which has been increasingly emphasizing its coffee more than its donuts, says it will be dropping "Donuts" from the name of some stores.

Earlier this week, the industry publication Nation's Restaurant News reported that an upcoming Dunkin' Donuts location in Pasadena, Calif., will cut "Donuts" from the store name and just go with Dunkin'. The Pasadena location will be the first of several to try out the shorter store name.

There are more than 12,000 Dunkin' Donuts locations worldwide, and it looks like only a handful could be affected in the near future. But if the Donuts-less name is a hit with customers, it could be adopted more widely.

A company statement explained why it's trying out the new name:

The company insists that the name change isn't a big deal; after all, its long-established "America Runs on Dunkin'" advertising campaign doesn't even mention the "Donuts."

Yet rebranding initiatives—like other company and product name changes—can be risky. Many Dunkin' Donuts loyalists are very protective of their "Dunkies." That's especially true in New England, where the brand is core to community identity: This is a place that created a mural of Boston Red Sox hero David Ortiz made entirely of Dunkin' Donuts last year, in honor of his retirement.

What's more, many other past corporate rebranding efforts have been mocked and quickly dropped. In 2011, for example, Netflix renamed its DVD delivery service Qwikster, leaving customers confused and frustrated. Less than a month later, Netflix nixed Qwikster; both its DVD and streaming products still go by the name Netflix.

Two of the most disastrous failed name changes happened in 2009. That's when Pizza Hut was met with ridicule for trying out the shorter, supposedly cooler "The Hut" as its name. Even worse, RadioShack became "The Shack"—again, briefly. It's understandable that RadioShack wanted to rebrand itself—few people buy radios anymore, and the company was struggling mightily—but the move was largely viewed as an embarrassing grasp at hipness. It was also just plain unappealing: Who would go to the shack to buy premium electronics?

Dunkin' Donuts' change—which, again, is only being tested at select locations—seems like it's on safer ground than the puzzling rebranding initiatives mentioned above.

Then again, customers often frown on any changes whatsoever to the brands they love. This goes especially in tradition-bound New England, where there could be suspicion and resentment if anyone dares to mess with residents' beloved Dunkin' Donuts.