Transcending the Donut

Noah Bubman
3 min readOct 6, 2020

The Paradoxical Journey of Emerging vs. Established Brands

This is about branding — NOT about donuts…sorry!

If you are craving the gratification of seeing a gorgeously delicious donut, please go to and type #donut into the the search field at the top. You could also try #foodporn, #doughnuts, #glutenfreedonuts…

This article actually speaks to the brand development spectrum, focusing on the paradoxical practices of small emerging brands in contrast to large, established ones.

Case study in real time…

Last Fall, while attending a conference in Brooklyn, I stayed in the ultra-cool, bustling, hip area of Park Slope.

Day 1 — Rise at 6:35am

First destination of the day — Coffee.

I stumbled into the nearest coffee shop. A hole in a brick wall where the powerful earthy aroma of espresso and the grind of flashy espresso machines and hipster baristas lured me in like a hooked fish.

I immediately noticed the main wall upon entering. 4 thin horizontal shelves were packed with brightly colored stand up kraft pouches of coffee.

I grabbed a bag for closer inspection and read what appeared to be a ‘Coffee Manifesto’ in minimalist font etched on the back. The superlatives used to describe their processes coffee would best a presidential politician. I read literally every desirable quality a young, liberal socially conscious coffee lover would want to find.

Here’s an abbreviated list:
- organic
- fair-trade
- ethically harvested
- shade-grown
- low temperature
- hand roasted
- hand picked
- visually inspected

I wasn’t sure whether I should feel more confident that they have gone through every process listed, or if these were just boxes to check to gain my confidence as a potential buyer?

Fast forward to 3pm — Coffee stop

That same day just before hopping in a cab I was waiting outside the donut shop formerly known as ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’. I glanced up at the bright looming sign and realized they had removed the word ‘Donut’ from their name.

How could it be, I asked myself, that the most well known donut company in the USA doesn’t want to be called a donut company anymore?

Have they transcended the donut??

I thought about this a little further and it occurred to me there must be a ‘tipping point’, in the developmental spectrum of a brand. There comes a time when a company, which has been fighting to place its flag in the sand surpasses a certain market saturation and brand awareness. At this time, they no longer have to claim to be known by the central thing they’ve been fighting for. Quite the paradox…

Or, is it no longer ‘hip’ to be seen as fighting for donut recognition once you’ve beaten the competition and become ‘THE’ Donut King?



Noah Bubman

Entrepreneur, business professional, writer, nutrition minded, innovator, sustainably focused, Californian, and a believer that ideas are best when shared.