#TimsDark 2.0 – getting it right the second time around

Cami Beaulieu    October 28, 2018

This week, I started my research by Googling “what percentage of new products fail”. The featured snippets in search showed 80%. In other words, if you launch a new product, it will most likely fail. Some flops are now part of pop culture (Crystal Pepsi), some were just too “avant garde” (McDonald’s Arch Deluxe), others were painfully annoying (Windows Vista), and others just plain out dangerous (Samsung’s Galaxy s7). As it turns out, lack of preparation, speedy research & development to launch early and even sabotage from a competitor are all factors that contributes to most products failures. Good market research has always been a way to help with the preparation of a successful product launch. Nowadays, social media can replace old school focus groups in most companies and reduce the number of missed product launch, turn around quickly to avoid a disaster – or become Internet famous for the wrong reason.

In an effort to stop McDonald’s, Starbucks, even Subway, to steal its market shares, Tim Horton’s announced in 2013 its pilot program to test a new blend – the dark roast.  Geared toward customers with different, more educated coffee choices, or new customers altogether, the dark roast was released to “give guests another choice” (source: Financial Post). In a hurry to launch quickly to offset the competitors’ pressure, did Tim Horton’s rush its product development? After the initial successful market tests in Québec, Ontario and Ohio, the blend was release Canada-wide.

Launched in August 2014, Tim Horton’s Dark Roast coffee was “marking the first time in the company’s 50-year history that an alternate blend is available in-restaurant in addition to Tim Hortons iconic Original premium blend. “ In parallel of the launch, Tim Horton created a social media campaign using #TimsDark to gather feedback from its customers and ask them “what they think” on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And they did get lots of feedback, although not the one expected from their previous test pilots. The customers were quick to complain about the weak taste of the new coffee:

“Not strong enough”

“Hot water and call it coffee”

“Please change the dark roast”.

Some comments were a lot meaner:

“Had a dark roast yesterday in Hamilton and it was by far the worst coffee I have ever had.

“The dark roast tastes like crap” (Hey – you can’t control what’s on the Internet!)

Although the online response was not 100% positive, the #TimsDark campaign itself was a success. It is credited an extra $30 million in coffee sales (source: TheGlobeandMail)

Nevertheless, the iconic Ontarian company decided to duplicate its #TimsDark campaign in March 2017 by re-launching its dark roast coffee. “Our Dark Roast has come back stronger, and we encourage our Guests to come and taste the difference for themselves, said Sami Siddiqui, President Tim Hortons Canada. We are confident that current Dark Roast drinkers and new guests alike will enjoy our darker, richer roast.” Once again, customers were invited to try the new flavour and commenting on social media using #TimsDark. This time around, the feedback seemed more encouraging:

#TimsDark you did very well. Tried it this morning and kudos to a job well done. Definitively richer & darker experience. Thanks

Tried a cup this morning – I dare say you nailed it this time #TimsDark

Dark roast is rich and bold.. The perfect afternoon boost me up Java mmmmm #TimsDark

Kit Smith states that social media can help in product development by providing quicker and more detailed feedback, on a bigger scale and with a less expensive budget than surveys and focus groups (source: brandwatch.com). Tim Horton’s use of #TimsDark did just that: using social media to gather the information the company needed to upgrade their new coffee blend. This lead to a higher product satisfaction for their coffee guests.

Lessons for Others

It’s never wrong to make it right. By listening to its customers, Tim Horton’s was able to launch a better version of its newer coffee blend. In reusing the #TimsDark campaign to track the feedback, the coffee company is able to demonstrate that the use of social media for product development can be really efficient. The used the comments and feedback quickly to development a bolder flavour that was appreciated by their customers. Their clientele was also keen to point out their approval of the #TimsDark 2.0 campaign.

Organization: Tim Horton's
Industry: Coffee chain
Name of Organization Contact: Meredith Gillies, Citizen Relations

Authored by: Cami Beaulieu

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


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