Tim Horton’s in-home coffee offering proves successful after a superior experiential marketing campaign

Assuming you even watch TV now that Netflix has taken over, do you remember seeing this Tim Horton’s ad on TV?

For more than 25 years, consumers have enjoyed brew-at-home, single-cup devices like Keurig, Nespresso, and Tassimo. And, over the last twenty years, many popular QSR brands like Starbucks, Timothy’s, Tully’s, and McCafé have jumped on the trend and created compatible single-serve coffee options.

In 2015, laggard Tim Hortons finally decided to get on board with what now appeared to be a safe-bet and expanded their business beyond the coffee shop and into the home. Given that they’d taken so long to enter this category, they realized that their consumers might be hesitant to try a brand that was so firmly rooted in its legacy as a lunch and coffee shop rather than as a grocery store.

They decided on the experiential marketing strategy that you see in the video. They set up tiny shops within the coffee aisle of grocery stores and surprised customers in the middle of their shopping journey with a cup of Tim Horton’s hot coffee.

Experiential strategies vary greatly as we’ve seen in previous blog posts but, in this case, it focused specifically and directly on the product’s sensory attributes and the purchase locale, the precise location where customers could find it during their next shop.

Rather than simply handing out single-serve pods for customers to take home, this brand activation strategy wisely incorporated sensory tests. By brewing coffee in the grocery store, the smell would have wafted throughout the store attracting customers who weren’t even shopping for coffee that day. Those customers eager to conduct their own personal taste tests would instantly be able to determine for themselves whether they liked the taste and texture of the coffee.


Once happy with the smell and the taste, customers could see and pick up the package, and test it for size, weight, and the potential convenience or inconvenience of fitting it on their shelves at home. And lastly, and for some most importantly, they could evaluate the price – was the combination of smell, taste, and package features sufficient to boost the product from consideration to purchase. Naturally, having already tasted and smelled the product, customers would be making a near-zero risk $20 purchase.

That non-zero risk comes from the fact that not everyone will master the art of brewing QSR coffee at home so that it tastes exactly like the coffee in the shop. Indeed, after many taste tests trialing tap water vs purified water, adding more or less sugar and cream, making a stronger brew, and using even hotter water, these reddit members concluded it’s impossible to make the in-home brew taste like the in-store brew. Perhaps a quick stop at the local Timmies is the only valid solution for these unhappy customers.

Despite unavoidable disappointments, this three year old venture has generated more than $155 million in grocery sales for Tim Horton’s in 2018. It’s improved its rank in the grocery coffee category from the #5 brand to the #1 brand. It’s even available in my grocery store, and for those of you watching Netflix, Tim’s pods are also available on Amazon. Enjoy!

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