Dunkin’ creates new chief digital officer role as it doubles down on tech, mobile offerings

Dive Brief:

  • Dunkin’ Brands Group announced the creation of a C-suite appointment, chief digital and strategy officer, that will oversee a new team dedicated to digital marketing and media, consumer and business insights and the restaurant group’s IT transformation, according to a news release. The move comes as the company behind Dunkin’ and Baskin Robbins is “doubling down” on its digital platform offering, CEO Dave Hoffmann said in a statement.
  • Starting Aug. 10, Philip Auerbach will step into the role, reporting directly to Hoffmann. Auerbach joins Dunkin’ Brands from ship-based expedition travel company Lindblad Expeditions, where he served as chief commercial officer. Before that, the executive acted as regional chief marketing officer of Caesars Entertainment’s Las Vegas division.
  • Dunkin’ Brands said it was also promoting Stephanie Meltzer-Paul, VP of digital and loyalty marketing, to SVP of Dunkin’s U.S. digital marketing. Santhosh Kumar, who previously held the title of VP of IT, infrastructure and information security and privacy, will now be Dunkin’s SVP of global information technology. Both executives are part of the new digital strategy team led by Auerbach.

Dive Insight:

Dunkin’ Brands’ creation of a chief digital and strategy officer role serves as a key indicator of where the restaurant group could be directing its marketing investments in the near term.

The appointment looks to accelerate mobile and digital technology transformation, which were already a growing part of Dunkin’ Brands’ business, but are now likely seeing an even higher premium as the coronavirus pandemic reshapes restaurant operations. The job also handles Dunkin’ Brands’ digital marketing and media operations, a factor that, combined with the tech focus, could mean the company is looking to strengthen its in-house capabilities in those areas.

“Dunkin’ has long been at the forefront of using digital technology to enhance the customer experience — whether through its world-class app; its advanced one-to-one marketing capabilities; or its DD Perks platform, one of the first and fastest growing loyalty programs in the quick service industry,” Auerbach said in a press statement. “I am delighted to join Dunkin’ Brands and excited to build a digital ecosystem that will deliver an even more personalized, frictionless experience across all channels.”

Doubling down on mobile and digital offerings follows moves made by Dunkin’ Brands’ rivals in response to the pandemic and as consumers prioritize safety and personal health. Starbucks has quickly ramped up digital experiences and tweaked store formats to better accommodate contactless curbside pickup and drive-thru orders, as reported in Mobile Payments Today. The coffee chain plans to shutter up to 400 company-owned stores over the next 18 months.

Auerbach joining the Dunkin’ Brands team follows a series of marketing leadership shakeups at the restaurant group. Last fall, CMO Tony Weisman abruptly departed after two years in the role. Weisman, a decorated marketer, is credited with helping successfully rebrand Dunkin’ from Dunkin’ Donuts and steward an ongoing Blueprint for Growth project that has seen the chain revamp its menu and in-store tech, including through the types of digital and mobile ordering options that are now in high demand.

In February, Dunkin’ Brands promoted Jill McVicar Nelson to VP of marketing strategy for Dunkin’ U.S. as part of a larger streamlining of its marketing organization that looks to better meld strategic and go-to-market functions. A spokesperson told Marketing Dive at the time that the search for a new CMO was ongoing.

Dunkin’ Brands will release its quarterly earnings results on July 30, which will provide a better picture of how the group is weathering the pandemic. Continued spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. has recently resulted in the re-closing of some bars and restaurants.

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