Driving awareness, literally

Tim Hortons' latest campaign started as a stunt, shifted into a focus group and acted as a sampling session before finally becoming a TV spot.

Tim Hortons is going to make sure every Canadian knows about its new Dark Roast, even if it means picking each of them up off the street to do it.

A follow-up to the dark restaurant the company did for the product’s launch in August, Tims sent a blacked-out “#TimsDark Bus” into the streets of Toronto on Black Friday to pick up four full loads of shoppers who were out in the cold at the popular Queen Street West and Yonge-Dundas Square shopping areas. Once inside, they were given a free sample and held an impromptu focus group where they gave their feedback. The entire thing was filmed and turned into a TV spot.

The spot, with creative from JWT and media buying from Mindshare, began airing on television on Dec. 29 and will run until the end of January, says Glenn Hollis, VP of brand strategy for Tim Hortons.

Hollis couldn’t disclose what the goals were in terms of sales, but says at 52 million cups of Dark Roast served in North America since the launch, the company had “blown past” its targets. He adds product testing in London, ON and Columbus, OH and a soft launch in Quebec allowed the company to address potential issues pre-launch.

“The only thing that came up a lot was initial confusion about whether it was replacing our original roast or simply being added,” Hollis says. “But the more it has been put in people’s hands, that [confusion] went away.”

Despite the product’s strong performance out of the gate, Hollis says driving trial and continuing to promote awareness by getting the coffee into consumers’ hands will remain the priority as Tims enters the second half of its first year plan for Dark Roast.

“We have 80% of the coffee market in Canada, so we sell a lot of coffee, but there’s still an opportunity to reach those that haven’t tried it,” he says. “The next phase will likely be some version of ‘look how many people are trying this and love it.’ We haven’t planned it yet, but we’re doing social listening, and with things like sampling and trials, we can see how people are talking about it and adjust.”