Roll Up the Rim to Win: So imperfectly successful

Tim Hortons' “Roll Up the Rim to Win” is arguably one of the most successful promotions in recent history. In its 31st year, it continues to attract more business and more media attention than any other campaign in the food industry.

It is one of the few campaigns that has transcended beyond a generation. There have even been reports of people stealing boxes of Tim Hortons cups just to get their hands on a prize. This promotion is a stroke of brilliance from the now American-owned chain. After a few years of ownership 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway clearly think Roll Up the Rim is worth pursuing.

It’s challenging to understand why such a promotion works. Why entice non-paying customers to stick around longer in your restaurant when paying ones are desperately trying to find a spot to drink and eat? Some don’t even bother rolling up their rim to see if they've won anything. Its sustainable value has also been put into question. Paper cup haters have expressed concerns about how environmentally-unfriendly the campaign is. Also, someone showing up at the restaurant using a reusable travel cup is automatically excluded.

However, none of this seems to matter. Roll Up the Rim to Win works for a few reasons. With any campaign, timing is everything. While most of its competitors run promotions during the holiday season, Tim Hortons holds its promotion in the new year. Back in 1986, when Roll Up the Rim launched, it filled a void and now it owns the February to March space, which no one else has been able to capitalize on in the same way.

Also, the campaign name is self-descriptive and easy to remember. While the French version is less obvious, the campaign has positioned itself favourably over the years. The use of social media has also made a difference in reaching several markets.

For this campaign, simplicity is the key. Its name is self-descriptive and little is required to participate. The intrigue, the hidden information while finishing your drink makes the campaign tick. In its first year the biggest prize was Timbits. Since then vacations and cars have been added to the list. Non-food prizes include 2017 Honda Civic Coupe EX-T and $5,000 CIBC prepaid card prizes. These companies see value in collaborating with Tim Hortons to increase their brand equity through co-branding. The campaign is as simple for customers to understand as it is for Tim Hortons to run.

Over the years, Roll Up the Rim has made several winners, but the biggest winner of all is undoubtedly Tim’s. The campaign promotes Tim’s products in the hopes new customers will become hooked on the coffee once it's over. The promotion is about building customer loyalty, and it has worked.

As the coffee wars continue in Canada, and chains such as Starbucks and McDonald’s vie to capture more business from Canadians, Tim Hortons will need all the help it can get from its Roll Up the Rim campaign to keep its existing customers and garner new ones.

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