Silver Agency of the Year: J. Walter Thompson Canada
Tim Hortons was an iconic Canadian institution which built Canada’s passion for coffee culture one road trip at a time. Founded in 1964, Tims was built on the strength of its coffee business and as a part of that, its ability to serve a consistent cup every time. But while the restaurant sold 78% of all coffee consumed outside the home in Canada, by mid-2015 the brand still only commanded 12% of the important in-home coffee consumption occasion.
The brand’s fall 2015 ‘Shelf Talker’ initiative, which set up a Tim Hortons right in the grocery aisle to convince consumers that they could actually get both the taste and experience of Tims that they loved in its packaged coffee, was a huge success. It leap-frogged Tims’ packaged coffee from fourth, behind its longer-established grocery competitors Folgers, Nabob and Maxwell House, to first.
While the brand had moved into the leadership position within the category from a share perspective, the job was not done. It needed to keep the momentum going for the Tim Hortons brand as a whole, and the retail/grocery channel had been identified as a key battleground.
To maintain in-home market leadership against its entrenched competitors, the brand needed to be unrelenting in challenging its most significant barrier: consumer doubt that the distinctive ‘Tims taste’ they favoured in the restaurant could be replicated at home in a single-serve format.
The brand knew that what its loyal in-restaurant consumers loved about their Double Double wasn’t just the taste. It was the experience – that feeling of having a friendly stop on the way to work, when you’d get a warm welcome and a familiar red cup. This kick-start to the day was a ritual the brand’s fans couldn’t do without.
To convince at-home coffee drinkers that the Timmies in the grocery store was the same coffee they already knew and loved, the communications approach needed to embody an experience that was faithful to the one they got in the restaurant.
What if Tim Hortons could again bring the brand’s restaurant experience right into the grocery store coffee aisle? And this time, what if it leaned into its iconic drive-thru?
The brand, with the help of agency JWT, decided to introduce the Tim Hortons “Cart-Thru.”
The team started by building a mini Tims drive-thru window, complete with directions, a speaker box and stations, right into the aisle of Sobeys, one of Canada’s largest grocery chains.
A friendly Tims team member greeted customers as they approached the drive-thru speaker box and provided the single-serve coffee. This mini pop-up activation allowed skeptical coffee shoppers to try the product and be convinced by its just-like-Tims taste, in an environment that channeled the restaurant experience, all in real-time.
The team filmed these in-store ‘conversion experiences’ and used them for advertising (10, 15 and 30-second TV as well as online pre-roll) to spread the word and broaden the impact beyond the in-store event. The brand extended the program over the course of the week, inviting influencers and everyday consumers alike to come in, “cart-thru” and tell their friends.
From a media perspective, the team implemented a successful heavy-up leading up to and during weekends, so they could capture consumers’ attention and keep the Tim Hortons brand and single-serve product top-of-mind when they were most likely to be doing their grocery shopping.
Having successfully driven the brand to the lead spot in the single-serve category the year before with “Shelf Talker,” in the fall of 2016 “Cart-Thru” successfully drove the momentum the brand needed to continue to grow and expand the Tim Hortons brand and its offering in this critical channel.