Broken Trust with Tim’s: It’s a brand problem!

Tim Hortons coffee - is it on branding life support? Read more from 6P Marketing.

“Trust is an important driver of consumer purchasing decisions.” – Saul Klein, Dean, Gustavson School of Business, University of Victoria

So goes the importance of branding. If you have confidence from your customers, you’ll succeed; lose their following and the ground you stand on will start to quake.

The Gustavson School of Business released their 2018 Brand Trust Index on May 1st, with the leaders in many categories retaining their top rankings from 2017. Among these were Enterprise for Car Rental, Tide in the Household Care category, FedEx among delivery services and Canada Dry at the top of Beverages.

The most interesting category for many readers will be the Restaurants / Takeout section. It may surprise you to learn that of the 17 ranked chains (the entire survey covered 299 businesses), A&W scored the highest. Their overall trust rank was 62, up 46 spots from 2017 when they ranked 98th.

Why is this significant? Consider where Tim Hortons, once ballyhooed as one of the top Canadian brands (if not the top), sat over the last couple years. Across all brands listed, in 2017, Timmy’s ranked #27. The year prior, they were #47. In 2018, the donut-and-coffee empire fell, hard, down to #203. That puts them behind not only breakfast competitor A&W, but also chief rival Starbucks who checked in at #106. Tim’s also sits just two spots ahead of McDonald’s, its other arch nemesis, who came in at #205.

This isn’t the first time that the donut-and-coffee giant has been hit with poor news out of a trust ranking. In April, the Globe and Mail reported on a Leger study, which saw Tim Hortons drop in a brand reputation survey.

What did Tim Hortons in? David Dunne, Ph.D., Director, Full and Part-Time MBA Programs with Gustavson, attributed it to staffing woes. “On the heels of scandals about its treatment of employees, Tim Hortons – an iconic Canadian brand if ever there was one – collapsed,” Dunne said.

The solution is not necessarily an easy one but it is one that needs to be addressed with proper short and long-term strategies. Changing facades and restaurant design – something Tim’s has done a couple times over the years and is reported to be moving forward with shortly – isn’t enough.

The task now, as Dunne, describes, is for Tim Hortons to regain consumer trust before the bottom dollar is affected significantly. Dunne stated the following:

We think about Brand Trust in three ways. Does the brand do what it claims to do? (We call this Functional Trust). Does it treat its customers well? (Relationship Trust). And does it show a commitment to the environment, workers and communities? (Values-Based Trust). Although we are an academic institution, this isn’t a theoretical exercise. Brand Trust affects consumers’ willingness to recommend the brand to others, and this, in turn, affects profitability. If you lose consumers’ trust, you stand to lose big, because trust, once lost, is hard to regain.

Ultimately, branding woes like those faced by Tim Hortons feels mountainous, but the company is not in dire straits – yet. Drive thrus are still packed every morning, regulars still occupy seats at a strong capacity and sales remain strong; but there is definitely repair needed. Facing the negatives head on will be the task at hand, rather than letting it settle and hoping that the employee incidents fade from memory.

Additional Reading:
Winnipeg Coffee Wars: How Tim’s pushed past Robin’s

For more discussion and advice from 6P’s branding experts, contact our offices today by filling out our form or calling 204.474.1654.

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