Toronto’s Brand

May 26th 2010

So Lynn and I spent 3 days in Toronto with Sarah…a celebration of her graduation from Penn State.  We stayed in a downtowntimhortons Marriott, connected to the world-renowned Eaton Centre shopping mall.  Yes that’s right — the ultimate sacrifice.  I gave my daughter three days of shopping.  (But God blessed my sacrifice — the tax on clothes in Canada is over 13%.  Sarah decided to “just say no.”)

Even now, good memories come quickly to mind.  A long talk at Three Brewers restaurant.  Making Sarah scream at midnight in the hotel.  Drinks overlooking the lake.  Walking on glass 1200 feet in the air.  Pea Bacon sandwich at St. Lawrence Market.  Speeding ticket on the way home.  (Wait cross that one out…I’m just doing the good memories.)

So what does that have to do with branding?  Well good experience lead to good memories which enhance the brand.  If you ask me if Toronto is worth a visit, you will get a hearty yes.  Toronto has a good brand for me.  On the other hand, I have to be honest if you say “Toronto” the first picture that sneaks into my mind are two words in orange… “Tim Hortons.”   Best description is that Tim Hortons is Canada’s version of Dunkin Donuts.  But they are EVERYWHERE.  Think Starbucks on locational steroids.  Everywhere.

Now they had good bagels.  Decent coffee.  But I’m guessing that Toronto isn’t planning a “Come to Canada for Tim” campaign anytime soon.   In fact, I would guess that people in Toronto see those two words so often that they don’t see those two words.  But those two words have become part of the Toronto brand for me.

So here is my question — the thoughts I am pondering.  In our churches…even if we provide a good experience, have a healthy culture, lead people to a vital relationship with God and a purpose for living… it is likely that we will leave people with some unintended memories.  We will provide some unintentional branding.  People will leave with some impressions not on our strategic plan.

So what are our “Tim Hortons?”  What are the things that have become so common that an insider doesn’t even see it…but so frequent that a guest can’t help but see it?  Maybe it isn’t that big a deal…unless people walk away thinking more about ______________ than they think about Jesus…?