This week, McDonald’s announced a major revamp to its McCafé brand. The company will be adding specialty drinks (think caramel macchiatos and vanilla cappuccinos), and for only $2. In the past, these low-priced offers have done well for the fast-food giant, and increased in-store sales up to 3.9% in one quarter.

The revamp will also affect design, as McDonald’s will opt for a more modern, minimalistic aesthetic.

Immediately after the news broke, industry leaders and followers began to wonder about the potential impact on major players in the QSR beverage space, namely, Dunkin’ Donuts and Starbucks. Business Insider argued that the move should “terrify” Starbucks, in particular.

Our data paint a slightly different picture. With over 90,000 U.S. consumers in our database who drink coffee at one or more of the establishments, we ran an extensive analysis of the profiles of each customer base, looking at their demographics, media habits, shopping behavior, and overall lifestyle. To access the complete report, head to the bottom of this post.  

In short, what we found is that, based on the similarities and adjacencies of their customers, while this a potential threat to both brands, McDonald’s new move could have a greater impact on Dunkin’ than Starbucks. When comparing the customers of the three respective brands, we found:

McCafé vs. Starbucks

Both brands have a decidedly female customer base at 57% and 58%, respectively, while Dunkin’ Donuts aligns evenly with the Census. They compete more closely in urban areas.

McCafé vs. Dunkin

We see virtually identical alignment by age group between these two brands, with both performing better among older age groups, while Starbucks skews younger – which also means that McCafé and Dunkin’ perform better with Parents and Grandparents, while Starbucks wins with non-parents. They compete more closely in rural areas and among homeowners.

But the similarities between Dunkin’ and McCafé drinkers are more evident when we look at the more important psychographic profiles of the groups. For example:

• Starbucks customers are Market Mavens. They try new products and tell people about them. Dunkin’ and McCafé customers aren’t.
 Starbucks customers are robust users of and heavily influenced by social media. Dunkin’ and McCafé customers aren’t.
• Dunkin’ and McCafé drinkers are more price sensitive. Starbucks customers aren’t.
 Starbucks customers are more tech-savvy. The others aren’t.
 Dunkin’ and McCafé drinkers watch more TV. Starbucks fans, not so much.
 Starbucks drinkers are much more likely to dine out regularly.
• Dunkin’ and McCafé drinkers are better money managers. They spend wisely.
 Starbucks drinkers are much more environmentally-conscious.

Nobody is Safe

As you will see in the full report, however, the differences among all of these coffee drinkers are subtle in most cases. They have similar income, educational background, sports interests, and even charitable giving patterns. Given McDonald’s enormous scale and reach, neither Starbucks or Dunkin should sleep well after this news.

We just think Dunkin’ should sleep even less. Good thing they have lots of coffee.


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