People walk past a newly-renovated Tim Hortons in Toronto, Thursday, July 25, 2019. One of Canada’s most recognized marketing campaigns is going fully digital as Tim Hortons swaps out printed messages under rolled up tabs for scanning a loyalty card or app. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

People walk past a newly-renovated Tim Hortons in Toronto, Thursday, July 25, 2019. One of Canada’s most recognized marketing campaigns is going fully digital as Tim Hortons swaps out printed messages under rolled up tabs for scanning a loyalty card or app. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

‘It’s a long time coming’: Tim Hortons’ roll up the rim contest goes digital

One of Canada’s most recognized marketing campaigns is going fully digital as Tim Hortons swaps out printed messages under rolled up coffee rims for scanning a loyalty card or app.

The chain’s annual spring prize contest is now simply Roll up to Win – rather than Roll Up The Rim To Win – eliminating the fiddly work of rolling up a coffee cup rim with your hands or teeth to reveal a message like “win doughnut.”

Customers will now scan the Tim Hortons app on their smartphone at the time of purchase to earn a “roll” that could reveal a prize like “free doughnut,” or scan a loyalty card and later log into the contest’s website to see the rolls and prizes they’ve earned.

“This is such an iconic game,” said Hope Bagozzi, Tim Hortons chief marketing officer in an interview. “Even though it’s changing, we think it’s evolving to be even stronger and we hope guests will love it in its new iteration.”

Tim Hortons has added new menu items to the campaign, with cold beverages and breakfast sandwiches now eligible for prizes in addition to hot drinks.

The usual prize pool of free coffees, doughnuts, electronics and vehicles has also been expanded to include subscriptions to streaming services and reusable mugs – part of the company’s efforts to increase the sustainability of the contest.

Indeed, the new digital contest addresses past criticism that even customers with reusable mugs had to take a paper cup in order to play.

Meanwhile, Tim Hortons has retired the dreaded “please play again” message. Instead, the company said every roll is a winner, including reward points that can be collected and redeemed for almost anything you can buy at the fast-food restaurant.

Still, while the coffee chain said the rebranded campaign comes with more chances to win and the largest prize pool in its 36-year history, it’s also expecting the changes could take some getting used to for its most ardent fans.

Customers outside a Halifax-area Tim Hortons had mixed feelings about the changing contest.

“It’s a long time coming in a way especially because most things are digital now with the app and the tap and everything,” said Sohaib Korban. “But I think people are really going to miss rolling the rim physically and the joy of finding something.”

Jacob Seifred called the change “annoying” and “lame.”

“I enjoyed rolling up the rim and hilariously comparing it to my friends and now I can’t,” he said. “I just don’t like these loyalty programs. I’ve got the card but I forget to use it all the time.”

The fact that Tim Hortons has added more items to the contest this year, didn’t sway Seifred’s opinion. He added that it sounded like the coffee chain was trying to compete with the McDonald’s Monopoly game.

But others said it was a wise move amid increasing concerns about health and safety.

“With the pandemic it’s probably smart considering they’re probably trying to limit the spread of contagions,” said Olivia Bell. “But I’m not very digital or good with my phone so I probably wouldn’t partake in it.”

Last year’s campaign kicked off just as the pandemic started and was quickly shifted digital to prevent staff from having to collect rims that had been in people’s mouths.

This served as a transition for customers, Bagozzi said.

“People had to adjust to the fact that their beloved tabs had gone away,” she said.

“It’s sort of a tradition. People are so used to rolling it up with their teeth or had different ways of doing it, so last year was an adjustment.”

Indeed, the rim-based contest was so popular it sparked the most Canadian of inventions – a coffee cup rim-rolling device known as the Rimroller – featured on CBC’s “Dragon’s Den.”

The interactive element hasn’t completely disappeared, Bagozzi said.

“We’ve designed the actual experience in the app to be fun,” she said. “We’ve made it as visceral as we can to mimic the experience of the tab. So there will be sort of a sensation and a noise.”

Tim Hortons parent company Restaurant Brands International Inc. said last week one-third of adult Canadians currently use the coffee chain’s loyalty program.

RBI chief corporate officer Duncan Fulton said the chain’s loyalty program gives the company a “powerful marketing tool” to be able to better tailor offers to customers.

“It allows us to send more targeted offers to people in the future that are more in keeping with what they like,” Bagozzi said. “It gives us the knowledge … to make it more relevant for Canadians.”

The contest will run March 8 to April 4, with an additional two weeks at the end to accept the prizes within the app or website.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2021.

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