Tim Horton’s as “a place where Canadian values are articulated”

Politicians are well-known for visiting local restaurants and meeting with potential voters. In Canada, this means that politicians head to Tim Horton’s:

As we enter the home stretch of the election, the most dangerous place to be is between a politician and a Tim Hortons photo-op.

In recent weeks, the doughnut chain has become the parties’ preferred shorthand for patriotism, with leaders battling to sell their image as the Everyman with each double-double…

“It’s not just a coffee shop; it’s a place where Canadian values are articulated,” explained Patricia Cormack, associate professor of sociology at St. Francis Xavier University. “Tim Hortons is connected (through marketing) to community and sacrifice and immigration and family ā€” all those themes that politicians want to attach themselves to.”

The restaurant, in a way, has become the Canadian equivalent of what former vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin called “Main Street USA.” Only in this case, it’s a $2.5-billion multinational personifying the people ā€” an irony not lost on those following the campaign online.

This sociologist makes it sounds like politicians want to ride the coattails of Tim Horton’s effective marketing campaigns. As one might imagine, this close identification with a particular large corporation rubs some people the wrong way. The story cites one citizen that suggests more candidates visit Starbucks. There is only one problem: Tim Horton’s is much more popular than Starbucks in Canada.

A 2009 Harris-Decima survey found Tim Hortons people outnumbered Starbucks people by a ratio of 4-1 in Canada, with the former brand traversing age, class, gender and even political philosophy.

So Starbucks is not the answer, at least not for the politician that wants to connect with the “average Canadian voter.” The American equivalent might be going to McDonald’s or Walmart but I don’t think these companies have the popularity that Tim Horton’s has in Canada.

In thinking about this, are there other countries that have something like a “national corporation”?

(I have had one Tim Horton’s experience: it is the only time I have had a combo meal with an apple and a donut.)

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