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Double-double Tims trouble

The much beloved Canadian institution flew into some flak when it pulled Enbridge ads flashing by on its in-store TV screens.


Apparently Tim Hortons has added chicken to its offerings. The much beloved, American-owned iconic Canadian institution flew into some flak recently when it decided to pull Enbridge ads flashing by on its in-store TV screens.

The Vancouver office of an obscure US-based environmental group decided to focus one of its social media campaigns against Tims and managed to scare up 28,000 signatures on its online petition. The goal was to harvest 50,000 names (and as of this writing several days later, it had tallied 31,600) to scare Tims into un-accepting the Enbridge campaign.

There must have been much clucking going on behind closed doors at coffee and donut headquarters when the executives, fearing they were about to get plucked by a potential backlash from greenish customers, scuttled what was supposed to be a four-week run.

Enbridge was noble; said it enjoyed working with Tims and respected the corporation’s decision.
But taking the easy way out didn’t have the desired effect.

What Tims harvested instead of media quiet was the collective outrage of many Albertans and others who don’t think a good corporate citizen that happens to be an energy company should be vilified for providing something that every North American needs and uses.

Energy sympathizers, employees and oil sands supporters, plus some Conservative MPs and other citizens piled on, some launching their own Twitter campaign (hashtag #BoycottTims), and many others making the symbolic gesture of heading for the nearest Starbucks or McDonald’s for their coffee needs. All of this hoopla kept the controversy alive much longer than it deserved to be, and it was all so unnecessary.

Naturally, the pundits have weighed in, suggesting “brands” should be more particular about in-store advertisements. One marketing expert said Tims should have seen this trouble coming. “Anything that gets beyond a person handing you your coffee and you sitting down to enjoy it … anything that gets into a political realm is something they don’t want to touch with a barge pole,” said Richard Bingham, a professor at Humber College in Toronto, in a Canadian Press story.

Or Tims could grow a backbone.

Some people are disturbed that Enbridge would like to move its energy to markets outside North America, which would require a pipeline to the east. They don’t like the company’s tactics. Fair enough. That’s their opinion.

On the other hand, Enbridge is a respected company that employs more than 10,000 people who help generate, transport and distribute energy. It is also developing wind and solar technologies, so it does sport some legitimate green credentials.

Had Tims ignored the petitioners’ demands, it’s unlikely too many customers who happened to look up and even register that they saw an Enbridge ad cycling by on the in-store TV screens would be so outraged that they might choke on a TimBit.

Tims caved in over 28,000 names. We can only imagine how many names might have dwarfed this modest count had someone immediately mounted a pro-Enbridge social media campaign in Alberta, where energy sensitivities are rather high at the moment.

Let’s put aside the fact that, despite those within the environmental lobby who view fossil fuels as evil, the energy this resource generates drives the world economy, powers the generation of electricity, keeps people warm, allows them to travel great distances and it will be with us for some time.

A Ryerson pundit suggests this Enbridge fiasco will serve as a case study (presumably what not to do) in crisis management. It also demonstrates that placating special interests is a risky business strategy. Stick to the double-doubles and leave the chicken to the sandwich wraps.



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