Identity Crisis

Tim Hortons recently launched the “Maple Flatbread Breakfast Panini”, the latest in their “Panini” line, and another example of Tim Hortons foray into the premium cafe segment. While I applaud Tim Hortons efforts to attract a new customer segment, I find that this approach will only serve to confuse their existing customers.

Examining their “Maple Flatbread Breakfast Panini”, I see two issues that stand out:

1)      Since when did the term “Panini” stand for a grilled sandwich on toast bread? Panini is actually the plural term in Italian for a sandwich (singular being panino). I am of the firm belief that if you want to present a foreign name for a product, than you should use the correct foreign name. While using the plural term for a singular product isn’t as bad as some of these other foreign branding mistakes, given Canada’s large Italian population, I think Tim Hortons can do better.


2)      The “Maple Flatbread Breakfast Panini” is simply too long of a name for a sandwich! Can you imagine someone actually saying the whole name of this product while ordering? Tim Hortons has employed a layered naming policy wherein product descriptors are used in the name to classify where the product exists among Tim Hortons naming hierarchy (i.e Breakfast means that it is offered from 5am-12pm on weekdays and all day on weekends). I agree that product names should convey what the product is offering, however it should also be as short as possible!


Tim Hortons’ growth has slowed in Canada as a result of increased competition from McDonald’s and their poor performance in the U.S. As a result, Tim Hortons has chosen to evolve through the launch of their line of “paninis” and other premium products such as espressos and lattes in order to cater to a more upscale clientele. The issue I have is that Tim Hortons continues to market themselves as the traditional “Canadian Doughnut Shop” and the coffee of hockey families, while at the same time trying to cater to a more upscale urban clientele, causing confusion in their message and potential long term damage to their brand. I do think that the expansion of their food offerings may definitely be a great tool to reverse their recent performance; however I think they can do so by leveraging their strong association with the Canadian lifestyle when naming their grilled sandwiches as opposed to calling them “Panini”. They might also want to consider simplifying their naming conventions so as to keep the customer in mind.


Do you think Tim Hortons’ strategy of offering premium products such as Panini will be successful?


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    August 7, 2013 - 6:06 PM | Permalink

    Not only does the new maple flatbread breakfast panini (that was a ‘mouthful’ to say) sound disgusting, I agree with your statement about the term of ‘panini’ (which I would associate with lunch) which will confuse their customers. In the commercial someone says ‘it has grill marks?!’ as if that is the only thing that classifies a breakfast sandwich as a panini. It’s no surprise they have a clear competition from McDonalds, probably because McD’s have capitalized on the concept of a clear brand identity, while Tim Hortons’ brand is now confusing! Their new menu items leave me wondering, “Is this fast food or not?”

    • Giampiero
      August 12, 2013 - 12:15 PM | Permalink

      Thank you rt284 for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment! I agree that McDonald’s has done a very good job over the years of having a clear brand identity with simple, easy to follow naming conventions and is quickly becoming a formidable opponent to Tim Hortons’. It will be interesting to see how the breakfast food services market evolves in the near future!

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