Tim Hortons takes coffee-centred approach under new CMO

Burger King's former global CMO Axel Schwan discusses the new campaign and its focus on the brand's coffee-making process.

AxelTim Hortons has tapped former global CMO of Burger King Axel Schwan to lead its marketing efforts globally, following the departure of former CMO Tammy Sadinsky.

The Restaurant Brands International-owned coffee-and-doughnut chain confirmed the appointment in an email to strategy this week.

Schwan (right), whose work earned Burger King the Cannes Lions Creative Marketer of the Year award last year, was named to his new role at the end of 2017.

He takes over during a difficult time for the brand, with recent surveys indicating that complaints from franchisees (which the federal government has announced it plans to investigate) and debate over cost-cutting measures at certain locations following Ontario’s minimum wage hike, have hurt the company’s reputation.

It’s within the context of those broader challenges that Tim Hortons launched a campaign last week, putting focus on its bean sourcing and coffee-making process.

“Our communities are important to us, including our coffee growing community,” Schwan said via email. “That’s why we founded the Tim Hortons Coffee Partnership in 2005 and why we featured real farmers in our [new] TV spot.”

The Tim Hortons Coffee Partnership aims to improve the businesses and lives of coffee farmers in the regions from which the company sources its coffee.

The 30-second commercial, airing nationally over the next few months, features Colombian coffee farmers, members of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, Tim Hortons restaurant managers and the company’s head of coffee operations, Kevin West. The spot has the feel of a musical, with the actors describing how the brand’s coffee is made through song.

“The fact is that many of our guests aren’t aware of the care that goes into our coffee making process and we would like to change that,” Schwan said. “We have a very special and unique coffee story, but it’s been a while since we have shared this story with our guests.”

The effort also includes radio, OOH placements and a social push. Tim Hortons will unveil a phase two of the campaign later this month in which customers will be able to get involved in the musical on social media for the chance to win prizes, Schwan said.

Tim Hortons worked with Zulu Alpha Kilo and Citizen Relations on the Canadian campaign.

Schwan did not confirm whether this was the first campaign in which he played an active role; however, since his arrival, the company has run a #CoffeeWithNeighbours campaign – one that maintained the brand’s strong community focus – and announced it will be investing $700 million over the next four years to renovate most of its Canadian locations. Earlier today, the company announced it will be relocating its head office from Oakville, Ont. to downtown Toronto at the end of the year.

Sadinsky left Tim Hortons last year and was named VP of marketing communications for Walmart Canada in March.