Friday, November 14, 2008

"Every Cup Has a Story" - Cute or Strategic?

An interesting example of a marketing program built around user-generated content was brought to my attention by a Canadian student—thanks, Sarah! I wasn’t familiar with the Tim Horton’s chain of coffee shops, which is huge in Canada. It beats out McDonalds for breakfast traffic there and has a growing number of shops in the U.S., mostly in the Midwest.


It’s their current campaign that is interesting in a couple of ways. It’s called “Every Cup Tells a Story,” and they’ve set up a community page on their site to host it. The stories are tagged and searchable. I clicked on dogs, and then on Duke’s picture to see his story. All very cute and sweet! From a community point of view, note that comments are moderated—good idea as far as I’m concerned. From a marketing point of view note that the story page has several “share this” options as well as a GPS store locator.

Since they seem to be into social media I did some surfing around. There are a ton of Tim Hortons commercials on YouTube, most of which seem to have been created by fans. I didn’t find any recent “real” ads, so I moved on. It was on Facebook that I hit a mother lode! A search for “Tim Horton’s” turned up over 500 groups. Most of the ones I look at seemed to be the typical fan group of one kind or another. However, the second one on this list, “Biodegradable Cups at Tim Hortons” looked interesting, so I clicked through. It’s an advocacy page, urging an environmentally acceptable solution to the problem of coffee cups as solid waste.

A frivolous issue promoted by a college student, you say? The group has over 10,000 members, so there must be something going on. There is—a big push in Toronto to do something about the volume of solid waste that’s being generated by fast-food outlets of all kinds. As one of the largest, Tim Hortons is a focus of proposed regulations. Note all the related stories and the comments listed with this article from the Globe and Mail newspaper.

This really got me to thinking. Is the “Every Cup Tells a Story” a creative way to put a positive spin on the waste disposal issue? It seems more than coincidence to me! The waste disposal problem is real, and Tim Hortons assures us they are working on it, but as far as I know there’s not yet a biodegradable coffee cup. The campaign is a bit of the warm fuzzies in the midst of the waste disposal controversy.

It would be a good campaign on its own. If it’s also a way to blunt public criticism—hopefully while they continue to work toward an ecologically-sound solution—it is brilliant!

1 comment:

Mary Lou Roberts said...

I asked Sarah,who brought this campaign to my attention, if she thought my take on the strategy aspect was accurate. Here's what she said:
I definitely think you are on to something and have discussed your post with a few others who agree as well.

Prior to your post, this topic actually came up with my hairdresser while I was getting my hair done for a wedding earlier this month. Since hearing that the Tim Horton’s cups were not recyclable, she had sworn off coffee in protest. That she swore off the stuff, instead of turning to a competitor shows just how deep the connection is that many have with the franchise. I was absolutely shocked that the cups were not recyclable, and went home to examine one. The cups say something about treating the environment with respect and not littering, but they are definitely not recyclable.

Why did I go home to examine a cup instead of having to wait until my next purchase? Well there is just something about those cups! Many, including my household, have Tim Horton’s brand coffee at home but feel it just isn’t the same if it isn’t in the cup, which causes many (again, my household included) to save their cups for reuse.

One would think inventing a recyclable cup wouldn’t be too difficult with all of the recent advancement in green technology, but perhaps the delay has to do with developing a cup with that same feel and taste?

In any event, while the cups may not be biodegradable, or recyclable, some of us at least reuse them.