Tims leaves customers in the dark

For its new Dark Roast launch, the coffee co took a risk turning out the lights to heighten the senses.


How much do you trust your local Tim Hortons? Would you go in if you opened the door and it was pitch black inside?

The QSR was betting some patrons would for the launch campaign behind its new Dark Roast coffee, the first new blend the company has added in its 50-year history.

A two-minute video living online at Timsdark.com launches the campaign behind the new product offering. It was filmed a few days ago in a small Quebec town outside of Montreal and features patrons walking into their local Tims, which has been made entirely black on the outside with the lights out indoors in order for customers to take their first sip of the new darker blend of coffee. The spot features famed YouTubers Corey Vidal and Corrado Coia.

Peter Nowlan, chief brand and marketing officer, Tim Hortons, says the idea behind having customers try the coffee in the dark came from the insight that when one of your senses is taken away the other ones, like taste, are heightened.

He admits that the idea for the ad was a bit of a risk for the brand, because they weren’t sure of the reactions they would get from customers.

“When you do this type of advertising you never know what you’re going to get, but we got a lot of wonderful moments,” he says.

Canadians will be pushed to the online video through a social media buy and an expanded TV campaign that hits airwaves after Labour Day. Nowlan says the company chose to go online first so as not to be constrained by a 15- or 30-second ad, and to “let the campaign breathe” before bringing it to TV. Creative for the campaign was done by JWT with media from Mindshare.

The online strategy is one the brand also made use of for its recent Yonge-Dundas Square 50th anniversary party in Toronto, putting a video of the festivities online but never bringing it to TV, he says.

In addition to online and TV spots, the campaign will give Canadians the chance to experience the new roast in the dark for themselves with experiential events in major markets across the country, says Nowlan.

At a launch event for the new blend last night, Marc Caira, president and CEO of Tim Hortons, said it is being brought to market following consumer demand for greater variety in the QSR’s coffee, adding Tim Hortons can no longer go with a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. Recent research from the Coffee Association of Canada also says that approximately half of Canadian (49%)c offee drinkers who consume the beverage describe their choice as a dark roast.

The new Dark Roast was chosen from a short list of four blends and was tested last fall in London, ON and Columbus, OH.