Tim Hortons & Social Media: Learning about the power of the crowd

Today, Tim Hortons learned about the power of social media.

In a release from Change.org, “Urge Tim Hortons to Stop Supporting Anti-LGBT Group” they indicate:

Oh, don’t you hate it when doughnuts decide to go homophobic? The Canadian mega-giant Tim Hortons (which in Canada is the largest coffee chain in the country), has decided to co-sponsor a rally in Rhode Island next week hosted by the National Organization for Marriage. Yup, the same National Organization for Marriage that is currently leading campaigns to take away the civil rights of gays and lesbians in Maine to marry, and the same group fighting marriage equality in places like Washington, D.C., New York, New Jersey and elsewhere.

This was posted at 1:29 pm Eastern Standard Time, August 9, 2009.

In less than 24 hours, this incident was all over the web – much due to the power of social media, and almost all responses universal in their condemnation for Tim Hortons’ support for National Organization for Marriage’s event.

By day’s end Tim Hortons, bowing to the “power of the crowd,” withdrew their support with the following response:

Recently, Tim Hortons was approached in Rhode Island to provide free coffee and products for a local event, as we do thousands of times a year across Canada and the United States.

For 45 years, Tim Hortons and its store owners have practiced a philosophy of giving back to the communities in which we operate. As a company, our primary focus is on helping children and supporting fundraising events for non-profit organizations and registered charities.

For this reason, Tim Hortons has not sponsored those representing religious groups, political affiliates or lobby groups.

It has come to our attention that the Rhode Island event organizer and purpose of the event fall outside of our sponsorship guidelines. As such, Tim Hortons can not provide support at the event.

Tim Hortons and its store owners have always welcomed all families and communities to its restaurants and will continue to do so. We apologize for any misunderstanding or inconvenience this may have caused.

And rightfully so. Tim Hortons’ main base is in Canada where same sex marriage is legal. And Rhode Island is a renown gay and lesbian tourism destination.

The National Organization for Marriage’s response? They criticize Tim Hortons’ response as “stressful, sorrowful and saddening” (Spokesperson Christopher Plante of the National Organization for Marriage in Rhode Island).

In the end, Tim Hortons understood their brand, social media and the power of consumer democracy. They also took a stance that sought to maintain their relationship with their customers.

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