New study says Tim Hortons is Canada’s most trusted brand

University of Victoria sees both emotional and functional connections with consumers

Tim Hortons is the most trusted brand in Canada, according to the first annual Gustavson Brand Trust Index.

The study, by the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria, is based on a survey of 3,125 consumers who scored 249 brands against 40 attributes.

The study looked at two types of brand trust: functional, which includes attributes such as reliability, consistency and value for money; and emotional, which includes honesty, caring and unselfishness. Consumer perceptions about quality, value, and social and environmental performance were also measured.

Tim Hortons came out very strongly on both functional and emotional attributes, said Saul Klein, dean of the Gustavson School of Business. On the functional side, “I think their promise is consistent. So when we get our ‘double double’ and our Timbits, the level of consistency and reliability is incredibly high.”

But what really set Tims apart in this study was its contribution to the community. “The local Tim Hortons plays an important role in society,” said Klein. “They sponsor local events and they’re very much seen as part of the community. I think that’s what really drove their sense of trust.”

However, it remains to be seen if Tim Hortons will keep the crown. The survey was conducted before Brazil’s 3G Capital acquired the chain last year. “It does raise a really interesting question because the new owners do have a reputation for tight cost control,” said Klein. “Are they going to cut back on Tims’ contribution to the community? If they truly understand what drives the value of the brand, you would think that they wouldn’t, or they shouldn’t.”

Top 10 Most Trusted Brands

1 Tim Hortons
2 President’s Choice
3 Shoppers Drug Mart
4 Google
5 Canadian Tire
6 Kraft Foods
7 Campbell Soup Company
8 Heinz
9 Canada Post
10 Johnson & Johnson

Among the other top five brands:

• President’s Choice is trusted for sourcing locally, and for value for money

• Shoppers Drug Mart is seen as caring, involved in communities, supporting charities and good value for money

• Google’s top scores are on environment, society, innovation, leadership and unselfishness. However, it is not seen as being involved in communities and it is average on value for money

• Like Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire also scores very high on community involvement and in society, and on value for money.

One top-10 brand came as a bit of a surprise to the researchers: Canada Post. “As consumers, we often like to gripe about the post office, but what is interesting is they scored very well on the emotional trust elements, including the way they treat their workforce, sense of contribution to the environment and being a good corporate citizen,” said Klein.

• Leger’s Best Brand Reputations of 2015

Along with ranking national brands, the survey also produced results by industry, region and demographics. It found that consumer packaged goods is the most trusted category, while hotels, energy companies, insurance and travel companies are the least trusted.

Regional brands such as Jean Coutu, St-Hubert and Sasktel are among the most trusted brands in their provinces. “There’s something about Canadian brands that relate better to Canadian consumers, and we see it even more strongly on regional brands,” said Klein. “It shows the importance of being able to relate to consumer needs at a more micro level.”

Five of the top 10 brands in new trust index are homegrown.

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