Dunkin' vs. Starbucks: Battle of the Festive Hot Beverages

dunkin vs starbucks Dec 20, 2018

It's a battle for the ages, an ongoing, unbridled fight for who holds the title of best coffeeshop franchise. Add to that holiday spirit to instantly kick the rivalry up a notch. Well, it's time to settle things once and for all on the Dunkin' vs Starbucks duel.

We're looking into who does the holidays better on Instagram: Dunkin' (newly sans Donuts), on which America runs, or Starbucks, the West Coast-based brewing behemoth. ☕️⚔️🎄

Paying it backward, one Dunkin' order at a time.

Ok ok ok. Be honest. Do you prefer caffeinating at Dunkin' or at Starbucks? Actually, it doesn't really matter because social media doesn't care. What it cares about is content, and quality one at that. Is there a well-crafted strategy in place and a smart, tactical execution plan aligned? Is the big picture considered as well as the small important goals? Are consumers converting into social audience members and vice versa? Do fans feel compelled enough to follow along on the most Important channel, Instagram? And are they engaging with branded creative assets?

So many questions! In this day and age, the answers to these are almost more important than which franchise offers the better hot beverage. Because it's not necessarily about the coffee, it's about the attachment to a brand, with those connections being created on visual social channels like Instagram through an output of creative assets and a compelling voice.

But let's be real. Above all else, one crucial factor can set one business apart from its biggest competitor: its holiday content plan. YES! Believe it. When folks are primed and ready for festive photos and videos and you're not serving that up to them, it's a missed opportunity that can make you lose the yuletide race. If only for the title of merriest marketer, hello champion.

So without waiting any longer—we know you're all dying to find out who wins here—let's compare how America's two biggest coffeeshop companies are doing the holidays better on Instagram and succeeding best at getting patrons to crave those timely scorching tipples.

Dunkin' vs Starbucks, here we go!

Basic Stats*

Follower count:

Dunkin': 1.5 Million
Starbucks: 17.3 Million

Winner: Starbucks


Dunkin': 0.71%
Starbucks: 0.96%

Winner: Starbucks

Organic Reach:

Dunkin': 25,377,738 through 1,360 posts in the past 4 weeks
Starbucks: 49,282,475 through 10,330 posts in the past 4 weeks

Winner: Starbucks

Weekly Follower Growth Rate:

Dunkin': -0.03%
Starbucks: 0.15%

Winner: Starbucks

*At present time.

No contest here, Starbucks triumphs over Dunkin' in the basic stats category. It basically crushes its competitor in every single data point. While the winner's audience is larger, it still also garners a higherer engagement rate, which is counter to the norm—typically, the bigger the audience, the smaller the engagement rate.

Starbucks also receives a devastatingly steep amount of organic reach in comparison to the newly renamed donut-turned-coffee house. Likely because the former encourages the creation of UGC by reposting it often and using CTAs to prompt fans to tag them. Perhaps the lack of connection with followers is what's causing Dunkin' to have a negative growth rate.

Dunkin' Vs Starbucks: The Holiday Content

We put each of the brands' holiday campaign visuals in Boards to get a proper overview of each one's strategy. Let's explore.


The Dunkin' social team came up with the fun "Dozen Days of Joy" campaign, posting a holiday asset every day starting on 12/12. Merry! The problem with that is that it did not start until well into December, meaning the business missed out on all the earlier opportunities for festive content. Around this time of year, people expect holiday-themed photos and videos. Heck, they want it. If you're not participating in that global dialogue, you're disqualifying your brand from the race.

When we put all 5 of Dunkin's holiday posts in a Board, we clearly saw that the group of them outperformed its regular engagement rate, together averaging 0.88%. That means the brand could have benefited from an early start date of holiday content, especially when looking at the account's top performing holiday post below, which garnered 1.79% engagement. Aka more than double its average.

Dunkin Vs Starbucks
Dunkin Vs Starbucks

As for the video content, Dunkin' published 4 of them, one being the announcement of holiday cups on November 16th, with nothing else festive until 12/12. They were all very well received despite a low total average engagement rate, which is the norm with video. However, their total average effectiveness rate is at a whopping 13.14%, pointing yet again to the brand being able to benefit from a higher volume of festive asset output.
Dunkin Vs Starbucks


Judging by the Starbucks holiday content on Instagram, it's obvious that the social team was just waiting for the season to roll around. They started posting as early as November 1st to announce the return of the red cup (naturally). But instead of dropping the news and moving on, it went deep on the holiday spirit and has been consistently peppering the Instagram feed with cheerful assets ever since.

Starbucks knows how to make its Instagram audience happy because apparently they absolutely love the holiday stuff. Bundling the photos in a Board revealed that together (all 19 of them posted so far) they outperformed the brand's average engagement rate at 1.09%, the top engaging post being the red cup return announcement.
Dunkin Vs Starbucks
Dunkin Vs Starbucks

While Starbucks went into the holiday season with a bang, it did not deploy as many videos as Dunkin' did, and they did not perform as well as Dunkin's judging by the effectiveness rate.
Dunkin Vs Starbucks

Ok you guys, the verdict is in and it's pretty clear. You might have already figured out the winner of holiday content on Instagram by now: yep, it's Starbucks. The coffee giant crushes its competitor in every major KPI, plus was leaps and bounds ahead in its holiday content strategy and output.

Perhaps this could signal to the Dunkin' social team to take an introspective look at their year-end Instagram strategy and adjust for next year. More cheer means more love this time of year, and that is clear.

It's the magic of the season. 🎊

Header image: @starbucks

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Dunkin Vs Starbucks