Tim Hortons' presence in Quebec is as ubiquitous as it is in the rest of Canada, serving as a central hub in communities across the province. These restaurants act as magnets, drawing in both locals and travelers in search of a familiar and trusted place for coffee or a quick meal.
Quebeckers’ strong attachment to the brand is deeply woven into the province's social fabric. This connection was significantly bolstered in the early 2000s by a unique advertising approach. A particularly memorable campaign featured two well-known actors portraying a couple who affectionately referred to each other as 'pitou' and 'minou', which significantly endeared the brand to Quebeckers.
However, over the years, Tim Hortons has increasingly leaned on price-focused and new item promotions to drive traffic and sales. This strategy, while effective for short-term gains, posed a challenge to the long-term brand equity in Quebec.
To delve deeper into Quebeckers’ relationship with the brand and its role in their daily lives, we embarked on research in a small Quebec town, a place where the brand's deep connection with the community was palpable.
This research was conducted through participant observation, a method where the researcher immerses themselves in the daily activities of participants, aiming to observe natural behaviors in real-life settings.
Our findings highlighted two core dimensions of the Tim Hortons experience in Quebec:
A sense of belonging to “our” place – a familiar and comforting corner of the world.
The affectionate bond with “les filles” (the girls), as many customers fondly refer to staff members who recognize and greet them by name each day.
These insights led to an advertising approach developed by Tim Hortons' Quebec agency at the time that vividly dramatized the dynamics we observed.
Effective brand-building in Quebec is a nuanced art, requiring a keen understanding of when to adopt, adapt, or create content specifically for the market. In this case, crafting resonant advertising meant uncovering the fundamental essence of the brand, often hidden in plain sight. It's a process that demands patience, observation, and attentive listening, capturing the heart of the brand where and when it truly comes to life.