Business

Tim Hortons: r-r-r-rolling in imitators

NANCY MACDONALD April 7 2008
Business

Tim Hortons: r-r-r-rolling in imitators

NANCY MACDONALD April 7 2008

Tim Hortons: r-r-r-rolling in imitators

NANCY MACDONALD

It’s Roll Up the Rim season again. Across the country, coffee lovers are pawing and gnawing at the rims of their paper coffee cups, hoping to reveal a free cruller or a new plasma screen TV. But this year, they’re not just unrolling Tim Hortons’ ubiquitous red-and-yellow paper cups: Canada’s rival coffee chains have hijacked Tim’s most famous promotion.

Coffee Time is currently running a similar contest, called “Flip a Winner.” (Just flip the rim to win!) Robin’s Donuts is calling their contest “Sip to Win.” And, for a week in early March, Country Style—which is holding its own “Turn in a Winner” contest-redeemed losing Tim Hortons cups for a free medium coffee. Tim’s hasn’t just inspired knock-off promos. Lee Valley Tools is now selling a $2 plastic device to unwind the rims of disposable coffee cups. It’s called the Rimroller.

It’s “no surprise” Tim Hortons’ rivals are ripping off the contest, says Eric Novak, founder of the Ajax-based media consulting firm Modern Media Perspectives. “It’s brilliant marketing.” Normally a Starbucks drinker, Novak switches to Tim Hortons during contest season, admitting he’s become well acquainted with the wax coating on Tim’s rims. “Never mind that you just bought 12 coffees; when you win that free doughnut, you feel like you’ve just won the lottery.” And the chance to win keeps consumers coming back again and again.

The original idea for Tim’s 22year-old contest belongs to nowretired Tim Hortons advertising manager Ron Buist. But Buist admits he himself was knocking off scratch-and-win contests. In any event, Tim’s isn’t going to fight over the rights to Roll up The Rim. “Imitation is the highest form of flattery,” says Tim Hortons Oakville-based spokeswoman, Rachel Douglas. Let’s just hope Tim’s rivals don’t r-r-r-roll out the Scottish b-r-r-r-r-rogue. M