Tim Hortons’ head marketing honcho explains the brand’s millennial-focused Innovation Cafe


Q&A: Tim Hortons’ head marketing honcho explains the brand’s millennial-focused Innovation Cafe

Axel Schwan, the global chief marketing officer for Tim Hortons

Last week, Tim Hortons launched a brand-new, more upscale and supremely Insta-friendly location in the Exchange Tower on King West. A lineup around the block on opening day suggests that Torontonians were keen to get a peek at (and pic of) the iconic Canadian brand’s new Innovation Cafe. But what does a move to court millennials mean for Timmies’ loyal base? Toronto Life spoke with Axel Schwan, the company’s global chief marketing officer, to find out.

What can you tell us about the new Innovation Café and how it differs from other Timmies locations?

The whole idea was to open a space that brings to life the three passions that we have at Tim Hortons: doughnuts, coffee and hockey. And then also to try new ideas, which is why it’s called the Innovation Café. We have a line of new Dream Donut flavours that are the same base doughnuts as always with some pretty cool and unique toppings. We also have seven brewing methods, including nitro, cold brew, pour-over and a Marzocco espresso machine, which we believe is the best in the world.

But maybe not what double-double devotees are used to?

Well, we still use the same beans. And if people want to order a classic double-double, we are happy to serve that. The goal with the new space is to balance our core identity with the desire to try out new ideas. We’re experimenting with environmentally friendly packaging that could potentially roll out to other stores. And the counters are charge stations, so you can just put your phone down and it will charge.

You can’t post a #doughnutselfie if your phone dies.

Ha! Instagrammability is definitely very important to millennial consumers. Things have to taste awesome and look equally awesome, so we’ve been really focused on that—not just with our doughnuts but our drinks, as well. The pour-over coffee takes a little longer to make, but it’s a nice process to watch.

All of these fancy products come with slightly fancier prices. How would the humble Mr. Horton feel about that?

I think he would be very proud of what we’re doing and excited about the new experiences we’re offering. We’re not taking anything away. Just like with the double-double, you can still order an apple fritter.

So to any doubters, you say come see it for yourself?


Last question: if you were a new Tim Hortons Dream Donut, which one would you be?

I would be the Crème Brulée. It’s simple, and not as flashy as some of the other new flavours, but it’s so delicious.

And it’s made with a blowtorch, so it’s also a little bit dangerous.