Community marketing builds brand love

By Ron Caughlin – Innovative Marketer and Storyteller

When does a community marketing program really resonate with your target audience?

When thinking about marketing programs that stick and truly drive commitment to the brand, one can’t miss the Tim Hortons long standing Timbits Sports Program.  I had the opportunity work with this iconic Canadian brand and expand and influence this community program. I must say, we really got this one right and making it stick in the minds of the consumer. Timbits sports was a main stay of the Tim Horton local and regional marketing program back in the 90’s and continues today, started by the franchise community as a way to connect to the local community in a caring fashion and link to the heritage of the Tim’s brand.  Many companies today are trying to build strong affinities through local community programs yet none have the equity and staying power as the Timbits program. This program complimented with a full suite of marketing tools and programs, always showed up first across the country as the top local community program in association with the Tim Hortons brand.

So what does it take to make a program build a success community program?

It starts with a clear understanding of what motivates your core audience at an emotional level and ensuring your employees are part of the process. This means a three sixty approach to researching on how to connect at personal level with the brand. Test the program using qualitative methods and re-test after you have implemented the changes to see what affect you had on the brand.  For the Timbits program we tested to make the community program more effective by looking at messaging, linkages and plain aided and unaided awareness and used the information to craft a consistent approach for the whole franchise system.  After implementing a new strategy we re-tested and found we had hit mark right on target.

What are you looking for in testing a community program?

Marketing is really about strengthening the overall consumer relationship with the brand in a way that builds commitment for the brand.  A truly authentic brand is one that emulates the brand experience with the delivery of the brand and starts with understanding the emotional elements that drive engagement and commitment. Tim Hortons got that part right and found a way to tell a story in a non self serving way to build commitment via thanking their customer for making a good things happen. They did this with post communication tied to their nationally support sponsorships with this Timbits spots featuring former Timbit player and now NHL star Sidney Crosby Tim Horton’s Commercial. In addition, leverage the local program with other national initiatives just like Tim Hortons did where they invite Timbits Hockey players to play one another at the intermission of NHL hockey games … real entertainment and heart wrenching –  Swansea Timbits Hockey at the ACC.

What are the big lessons learned?

The biggest lesson here is to start by building the program for the bottom up at the local level, make it consistent across the network and compliment it when you have it right with post communications that are non self serving and thank your customer. Also ensure the follow key components are implemented:

  • Communicate all the good things you do in a non self serving manner in post communications.
  • Consistency – ensure the program get 100% participation across the network and organization at the same time.
  • Simplicity – Timbits sports was all sports, we changed it to be just two sports, hockey and soccer to ensure stronger consumer recognition and focus.
  • Leverage – Leverage up and support the nationally only once the program is place. This was the case with Timbit hockey.   All NHL and CHL sponsorships were expanded and linked once the program was in place consistently at the local level.
  • On Brand – make sure the program fits the brand and has an impact with your core audience emotionally.