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<p>Three high school friends opened the first Blimpie in Hoboken, N.J., in 1964.</p>

Blimpie, Tim Hortons extend 50th anniversary promotions

Chains stretch golden celebrations into yearlong marketing opportunities

Blimpie and Tim Hortons are making a big deal out of turning 50 by leveraging the golden anniversary into a yearlong opportunity to reintroduce their brands while showing off new features and growth markets.

Last Friday, Blimpie commemorated its 50th birthday by offering its signature Blimpie Best sub for 50 cents to the first 200 customers at each of its nearly 600 franchised units. Founder Tony Conza, who opened the first Blimpie in Hoboken, N.J., with two high school friends in 1964, was on hand at a Blimpie location in Jersey City, N.J., to unveil a 50-foot sub made as part of a charity fundraiser during the day.

Conza had filmed a news segment at that Jersey City Blimpie restaurant, which is only a block away from where he attended grammar school, he said, “which was a real walk down memory lane.”

“I don’t often think too much about the roots of the company,” Conza said, “so it’s been interesting for me the past few weeks, and I’m looking forward to what we’re doing all year.”

On its 50th birthday, Blimpie offered its Blimpie Best sub for 50 cents
On its 50th birthday, Blimpie offered its Blimpie Best sub for 50 cents.

Blimpie’s initiatives for 2014 include the Golden Giveaway contest, in which every customer who orders a combo meal receives a scratch card to enter to win several prizes, like a vacation to Hawaii — the 50th state — or free tablet computers, free subs for a year or $50 Blimpie gift cards.

“We have high hopes for this year,” added Steve Evans, vice president of marketing for Blimpie, which is owned by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Kahala Corp. “The goal is to reintroduce the brand, get more trial and awareness, and we think it gives us a great stepping stone to build on. These types of [anniversary] things only set you up for success on later promotions.”

Other major platforms for Blimpie this year include the eventual rollout of online ordering and a branded mobile app that complements its Blimpie Run game for smartphones and tablets. The chain’s third-quarter limited-time offer will pay tribute to Blimpie’s origins: the Hoboken Hero, which will be an Italian sub with capicola, salami and pepperoni.

“For us, it’s about staying as true as we can to our roots with the premium deli meats sliced fresh to order,” Evans said. “At the same time, it’s a changing marketplace. … Now we’re staying on trend and competitive by embracing the technology our customers are embracing, engaging with them in the ways they want. It’s important with a 50-year-old brand to make sure we’re evolving.”

Tim Hortons: 50 years of coffee expertise

(Continued from page 1)

Tim Hortons also is celebrating its golden anniversary this year, with a promotion throughout its system of 3,588 locations in Canada called “Bring It Back,” which lets fans vote online for which menu item from the chain’s five-decade history gets to make a comeback on the menu this year. Oakville, Ontario-based Tim Hortons is featuring five different items that were popular in five different decades, such as the éclair from the ’60s or the Sugar Twist from the ’70s.

In the United States, however, where Tim Hortons has 859 restaurants, the brand got its start much later, in 1985 in Buffalo, N.Y. While the U.S. system won’t run the same “Bring It Back” promotion as its larger, older Canadian counterpart, it will nonetheless leverage Tim Hortons’ 50 years as a brand known for coffee, said Kate Jung, director of U.S. marketing.

Tim Hortons changed up packaging to commemorate its 50 years
Tim Hortons changed its packaging to commemorate its 50th anniversary.

“We did research with guests and asked whether the 50-year milestone mattered to them, and it turned out they do care because we’re relevant for our coffee expertise,” Jung said. “So we’re acknowledging the celebration on our packaging and in social media. We’re absolutely using this as an occasion to tell our coffee story about how we roast it ourselves from bean to cup.”

Using the anniversary to talk up Tim Hortons’ coffee could provide some momentum to innovation around the platform that the chain hopes to begin marketing in the United States soon, she added.

“We’re testing some new blends in the U.S. with great success,” Jung said. “Because we have end-to-end ownership, the sourcing and roasting of new blends is easy for us. We see more blends being a big part of the next 30 years.”

Packaging in Canada will be different and call out “the brand’s shared history with its customers since 1964,” Jung said, but the restaurants in the United States are looking forward to their 30th anniversary in 2015. In October, Tim Hortons’ marketing in the United States will pivot to that milestone.

A flagship restaurant is planned for downtown Buffalo next January, Jung said. It will be the only Tim Hortons restaurant to depict its founder and namesake Tim Horton, who played most of his career in the National Hockey League with the Toronto Maple Leafs but ended his career with the Buffalo Sabres, who retired his jersey.

“Frankly, very few people are familiar with Tim Horton the man, even in Buffalo,” Jung said. “This will give due credit to a man with a great hockey legacy and business legacy.”

The brand might also explore a special pricing promotion, similar to Blimpie’s and one they executed in Buffalo for the 25th anniversary in the United States, when prices on coffee were rolled back to 85 cents, “which was a boon for us,” Jung said.

She added that Tim Hortons has growth in new U.S. markets planned for 2014 and 2015, including St. Louis; Youngstown, Ohio; and the boomtowns of North Dakota.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

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