Restaurant Marketing Classics, Entry #1: They Might Be Giants riffs on Dunkin Donuts.

This is my first entry in a new, highly idiosyncratic series of personally beloved restaurant marketing campaigns. These aren’t necessarily campaigns that immediately drove so many people stampeding to the restaurant that there were fights over parking spaces—these are campaigns that, in my opinion, contain clear, powerful brand messages; high standards of execution; and are, in the end, engaging in a way that can convert passive, fickle consumers idly fumbling their way to the doors into fans, zealots, lovers and friends. These are campaigns that in some way established the modern-day credibility of these restaurant chains, and made people understand who they were, and how to think of them.

There are so many ways this series could begin. Little Caesars, Sonic, BK’s Have It Your Way reboot, just to name three off the top of my head.

I choose to begin, however, with Dunkin Donuts because these songs are stuck in my head. I wrote about Dunkin Donuts a few weeks ago, and I can’t stop thinking about these songs.

They made an unspecified number of them, approaching one million:

The band (duo, really) They Might Be Giants has been a cult favorite for years, and their association with Dunkin Donuts is, admittedly, kinda vague. What they bring to the brand, though, is a cleverness that is perfect for a good cup of coffee reasonably priced and a happy, unhealthy pink donut. And all those ideas, all those brilliant little miniature ideas: this blast of creativity seems caffeinated, and sweet and fun like a bag of donut holes.

With this campaign, Dunkin Donuts is declaring they won’t shut up and fade into the affections of the Northwest United States: they’re a national brand, with national ambition and an irrepressible, always new each morning, unpluggable fountain of ideas. They’re inviting you to be happy with them.

I think it works. And I think it gives them license to try all sorts of gimmicks to stay friends with us.

They’ve lost a little grip on the creative, spontaneous, independent, one-of-a-kind tonality these ads brought them. But they haven’t lost their spirit.

Here’s a bunch more. Because doing things is what DD and TMBG like to do: