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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Starbucks vs. Dunkin Donuts: Compare-Contrast Essay Writing Guide


Writing a comparison-contrast essay can be fun if you can find engaging items, concepts, or issues to write about. One good topic is coffee. Starbucks commercialized drinking upscale coffee drinks, but even before Starbucks became an international presence, boutique coffee had already significantly shifted the coffee-enjoyment experience. Coffee is much more than a drink, it is a flavor, a way of life, a fashion statement, and an endorsement of an ideology or worldview. To think of another large purveyor of coffee, one often points to Dunkin Donuts, once anchored by its core product (donuts, of course) but now sought after for its coffee. Dunkin Donuts coffee used to be the usual "cup of Joe," but has that changed in recent years? One might be able to gain insight by writing about it.

Here is a flowchart that helps students find manageable topics to write about, in which they can incorporate concrete details from experience. It also provides a point of departure for more universal items and issues. The form can also be modified for use with other topics one might want to compare and contrast.

Before we get started, here are a few questions that came to my mind: Should Dunkin' Donuts follow Starbucks and update their offerings again? Note that Dunkin Donuts now has a dark roast offering. How about food? In airports, Starbucks stores have nice ready-to-go turkey, veggie, and other sandwiches. Perhaps Dunkin' Donuts could build sandwiches from their in-house super-fresh bagels and expand their lunch or dinner business. Should they continue to diversify? With a core business of donuts, will Dunkin Donuts go the Krispy Kreme way?

A good comparison-contrast exercise can help unravel these questions. Time to enter the "java shack" ...

Begin enticing the reader into the world of coffee. Start with illustrative scenes.

Part I:
Step inside each world. An imaginative adventure, a journey for your reader.
Step into Dunkin Donuts. What is it like? What does it look like? Sound like? Smell like? Who is there? Where is it? Is it a franchise, or are these company-run stores?

Step into Starbucks. What is it like? What does it look like? Sound like? Smell like? Who is there? Where is it? Is it a franchise, or are these company-run stores?
Part II:
The general and the specific.

The general: What does each store offer? Describe the full array of products and some of the salient characteristics of Dunkin Donuts and of Starbucks, with emphasis on the coffee, the packaging.

How does each store, either Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, establish brand identity? What is the identity of each?

The specific: The showdown: The taste test.
Describe the coffee. What do you like? What do you not like?

Analysis and observations: Insights about the world we live in, developed by thinking about both things.

What does Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks make me realize about the community it serves?

What makes the Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks popular? Is it more than the coffee?

What are the assumptions Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks makes about the clients?

How does a careful analysis of commercial products, marketing, and brand image tell me about what businesses believe about the clientele?

When I go into Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks, do I feel like I "fit in" more than in the other? Why?

Am I being subtly "programmed" by the commercial enterprises to "be" a certain type of person, or act a certain way?

Ideas this gives me for the future.
Thoughts, etc.

Useful Websites
Dunkin Donuts Nutritional Facts and Calorie Information:
Dunkin Donuts:
Starbucks Nutritional Facts and Calorie Information:
Corporate Ethics and Accountability: contains discussion in the body of the article about Starbucks, and the fact that it receives awards for being environmentally friendly, while paying Guatemalan coffee workers exploitively low wages.

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