Thursday, December 18, 2008

A childhood filled with Apple Fritters and Double Doubles

Sometimes a company finds itself in a unique situation. It starts to hear from customers. Not in the “my-customers-service-centre-is-getting-flooded-with-complaints” type of hearing, but the “who-thought-our-company-meant-so-much-to-people” type of hearing. If your company is one of the fortunate few to experience this, wake up and work with it. Drop everything that you’re doing and make the most of it. Then maybe the way you look at customers will change. Maybe the way you market your product will change. And maybe this fortunate experience will become a regular occurrence.

This is the story of Tim Horton’s. For over 45 years, this company has made coffee and donuts for the Canadian public. It turns out that although Tim’s has been busy pumping out caffeine and deep fried carbohydrates, Canadians have been consuming memories, stories, and fostering a deep connection with a brand fighting for its place in a competitive industry. Tim Horton’s is a great example of the accidental discovery of a truly engaged customer base. Although the company’s latest campaigns focus on consumer stories (fully jumping on the social media bandwagon), this direction didn’t occur out of some brilliant insight. Instead, someone at the company stopped making donuts and opened the pile of letters from customers that had been sitting in the mailbox.

It turns out that Tim Horton’s consumers associate a lot of what they do to the brand. The company receives thousands of letters and emails from loyal fans. Letters about friends travelling across the country together and stopping at every Tim’s along the way. Stories about childhood memories and the feeling that going to Tim Horton’s with family provides - thousands of heartfelt, genuine tales of what Tim Horton’s means to each consumer. People actually can’t wait to tell Tim’s how the brand fits into their life.

Think about that.

Involuntarily, your customers decide to reach out to you – the company - in a positive way. You’ve been telling them they should buy your product because it’s economical and different. Now they’re telling you that they buy your product for reasons far bigger than that. It’s a backwards marketing model, but shows how a brands perception and the point of consumption can dictate your company’s success.

Credit: The image above is a photo that was given to staff at Tim Horton's by a loyal customer.