After 35 years, it’s probably time to freshen up your coffee.
When Tim Hortons relaunches its iconic Roll Up the Rim to Win contest next month, it will be include a digital component for the first time in its three-and-a-half decades. The move comes as the company was under increasing criticism from environmental groups for cups that aren’t recycled, and as it’s trying to encourage usage of its mobile app, launched last year.
“We want to keep it fresh. There’s a bit of a novelty to ‘Hey, what does the app do?’ That’s part of the fun of evolving beyond just the cup,” said Tim Hortons’ chief marketing officer Hope Bagozzi in an interview with the Star.
Die-hard fans of the traditional method of trying for a free coffee, doughnut or more lucrative prize won’t have to worry. The cup will be sticking around, at least for the first two weeks of the contest, which runs from March 11 to April 7.
March 10, Tim’s will also be giving away 1.8 million reusable cups. Buy a coffee using a reusable cup — one of your own will do too — and you’ll get three rolls on the app. Buy one in a standard paper cup and register the purchase on your loyalty card or app, and you’ll be able to roll up the physical rim and get one roll on the app.
Buy a standard paper cup and don’t use the loyalty card or app? One roll — and that’s only for the first two weeks. For the final two weeks, the contest is digital only.
“This is great, but they should have done it four or five years ago,” said Sylvain Charlebois, director of the agri-food analytics lab at Dalhousie University.
With most municipalities not accepting plastic-coated paper coffee cups in recycling programs, encouraging consumers to drink out of reusable mugs is a main goal of the new-look contest, said Bagozzi.
“It’s important for the consumer,” said Bagozzi. “But it’s also important for us as a business and a brand to be doing the right thing and the responsible thing in trying to reduce the environmental footprint and take as many single-use cups out of circulation as possible, and get people to make that a habit — whether it’s their own mug or something they buy from us.”
Charlebois said while there are some all-cardboard cups accepted by recycling programs, he has yet to see any that allow for the kind of branding a major food retailer would want.
“They’re just plain and brown,” said Charlebois.
While rumours had swirled for months that Tim’s was getting rid of the physical element of Roll Up the Rim, Bagozzi said the company decided against it for now, after internal discussions and consulting with franchisees.
“When it comes to technology, there’s always a bit of a fear of that, of leaving certain guests behind, who aren’t willing to adopt that. But … we haven’t gone 100 per cent digital and risked that alienation,” Bagozzi said, adding it could become all-digital in future.
Trying to play both sides of the coin is a wise business decision, said Alan Middleton, a marketing professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business.
“It’s a good middle ground,” said Middleton, adding that Tim’s will still likely come under fire from environmental groups who have repeatedly criticized the amount of paper waste generated by the company, particularly during Roll Up the Rim.
“I think most people will be nodding their heads, but they’ll still be vulnerable to the more extreme end of the environmental spectrum,” said Middleton.
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Lisa Hutcheson, managing partner at retail consultancy J.C. Williams, said going digital and green at the same time is a good way for Tim’s to reach out to younger consumers, who might otherwise look askance at the chain.
“If they want to get younger consumers, I think this is the move. The risk is whether it will alienate some of their older customer base,” said Hutcheson, adding that Tim’s has been behind in the digital game.
“They were playing catchup. Starbucks’ loyalty program and app have been around for a long time,” said Hutcheson.
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