| June 01, 2010
I am not sure I have ever seen so many donuts on one plane before. Many of the well-dressed businessmen heading to Cartagena from Bogota were carrying shopping bags stuffed full of Dunkin’ Donuts boxes. What, I wondered, was the attraction? When I quizzed the guy sitting next to me on the plane the answer was, “You can only get them in Bogota. People buy them to take home to their families.” Fair enough—but why an American brand, not a local one?
I am not alone in noticing the presence of Dunkin’ Donuts in Bogota’s El Dorado airport or the intensity with which Colombians seem to crave them. Brownie, of the "Blondie and Brownie"
blog, suggests that Dunkin' Donuts has encouraged this desire by adapting their donut selection to local tastes. She notes that in addition to more normal fare, the El Dorado outlet sells donuts filled with guayaba (guava) and arequipe (a caramel spread similar to dulce de leche), as well as a chocolate frosted donut covered in mani (peanuts).
But if this were the only reason for the appeal of Dunkin’ Donuts, might not the local Donut Factory serve instead? The two outlets are almost side by side in Terminal 2, but it was obvious from the number of customers that the American brand was getting more than its fair share of attention. (There was also a second Dunkin’ Donuts by the entrance downstairs.)
Admittedly, the donuts in Dunkin’ Donuts looked more attractive to me than the ones in Donut Factory, and so they might be considered better suited for gift giving. But I believe there is more to this phenomenon than just looks and taste.
First, there is a scarcity factor involved. When you cannot easily get something, it becomes that much more alluring. As a result, a box of 10 donuts costing about 22,500 pesos (just over $10) becomes a much more notable gift for the family than something that costs more but is available down the street.
Second is the fact that Dunkin’ Donuts comes from the United States. I suspect that to many Colombians there is still an allure in buying an international brand, particularly one that hails from the land of Disney, Miami Beach, and New York.
As I noted in my post
on Sonic Drive-Ins, pent-up demand is great as long as it lasts. The big question is whether Dunkin’ Donuts will be able to sustain its appeal when more outlets open in Colombia. In part the answer to that question may rest with the local competition. Unless the Donut Factory ups its game, there seems little reason why Dunkin’ Donuts might not become as well accepted in Colombia as Coca-Cola. But even if the Donut Factory does not compete effectively, Dunkin’ Donuts still needs to make the transition from scarcity brand to ubiquity successfully. And that will mean getting even closer to Colombian culture.
If you have any thoughts on this matter, I would love to hear them, particularly if you live in Colombia.