Starbucks has been fighting its competitors – Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's – for the top position as coffee king for several years. The company, which began close to 50 years ago with one store, has experienced phenomenal growth and success. It's often considered the go-to coffee place to work and socialize, a concept that corresponds to the company's marketing approach.

Since its inception, Starbucks has aimed to create a place for consumers to stop between work and home and has ensured its brick-and-mortar locations provide customers a relaxed atmosphere and overall experience. The tactic has had great success, reflected by Starbucks' 2017 revenue of nearly $22.39 billion, up 5% from the previous year. As of April 26, 2018, Starbucks had 28,209 stores, drastically outnumbering Dunkin' Donuts' 11,300 stores worldwide. 

1) Dunkin' Donuts Giving Starbucks a Run for the Money

Dunkin' Brands-owned Dunkin' Donuts peacefully co-existed with Starbucks for decades. When the spokesman for its initial donut-focused ad campaign retired in the late 1990s, Dunkin' began putting more emphasis on the growth of its coffee business. The company introduced its first specialty coffees in the early 2000s and slowly began making a name for itself as more of a destination coffee shop.

In 2006, Dunkin' upped the ante and declared war against Starbucks when it launched its "America runs on Dunkin'" ad campaign. Where Starbucks has a more wealthy and upscale feel, relying primarily on word of mouth to spread its name, Dunkin' Donuts approaches customers with traditional advertisements, representing itself as a brand for all-American consumers. Overall the tactic has worked, though the company's revenue of $860.5 million for 2017 falls substantially behind that of Starbucks.

2) McDonald’s Joins the Coffee Battle

McDonald's has traditionally been known as a fast food restaurant rather than a coffee shop, but it joined the coffee fray by introducing flavored and iced coffees in the mid-2000s. At $22.82 billion, McDonald’s revenue for 2017 was higher than Starbucks' and significantly higher than Dunkin' Donuts. However, this is due in part to its much larger menu.

After using the "I'm lovin' it" slogan for more than 10 years, McDonald's recently found the campaign was not trending as well as it had when first introduced. New commercials and advertisements rolling out in 2019 will fall in line with Dunkin' Donuts' approach, pushing McDonald's as a brand for the common American, with emphasis placed on embracing people of every educational and cultural background.

The Retail Coffee Game

Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's also compete for customers in terms of dry coffee goods. All three companies offer coffee beans and ground coffee in retail and grocery stores around the world. Thus, two companies known for such products – Maxwell House and Folgers – have become competition for Starbucks as well. Maxwell House is one of the top-selling lines Kraft Corporation offers, and it is one of the best-selling coffee brands. Folgers is not far behind. While these two brands currently dominate the dry coffee goods market, they are not in direct competition with Starbucks due to their lack of physical stores and additional product offerings.

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