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Tim Hortons is a Canadian coffee franchise. It’s one of North America’s largest restaurant chains operating in the fast service space. In the U.S., it has restaurants in New York, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maine.

And recently, this franchise pissed off a lot of people.


Because Tim Hortons made a decision to stop running ads from Enbridge, a Calgary-based energy company.

For about three weeks, Enbridge ads were aired on screens at more than 1,500 Tim Hortons locations between British Columbia and Ontario on Tims TV.

The ads were designed to sell the Canadian public on a controversial $7.9 billion oil project known as the Northern Gateway pipeline. Once completed, the pipeline would ship oilsands bitumen from Alberta to the west coast. The Canadian federal government approved the project in June 2014, subject to 209 conditions. However, Endbridge has since been quiet about the project.

Fast forward to recent weeks…

A group called SumOfUs launched an online petition to urge Tim Hortons to stop running Enbridge ads. A few years ago, the group also launched a petition directly to Enbridge to stop misleading the public with their ads.

The petition to Tim Hortons had quite a few signatures from anti-pipeline customers who “didn’t want to see tar sands with their morning cuppa joe.”

Responding to this feedback, Tim Hortons announced it would stop running the ads. “We value your feedback and the Enbridge advertisements are no longer airing on Tims TV,” the company tweeted to one customer.

You can imagine how the rest of this story goes…

Oil-friendly citizens in Alberta have boycotted Tim Hortons…

SumOfUs staff have received death threats…

Lots of people are flipping out because Tim Hortons took a stand that challenges a few world views.

A Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) article states: “Marketing experts question whether Tim Hortons over-reacted to the online petition.”

Here’s my thought on the matter.

Tim Hortons stopped running Enbridge ads in response to pressure from anti-pipeline customers.

The key phrase here is “in response to.”

If you recall, I wrote an article on The Path of Least Resistance a few weeks ago. This book discusses how most of the world operates in a “reactive-responsive” orientation — i.e., they “react” and “respond” to whatever life happens to throw at them.

This is the opposite of living in the “creative” orientation. In the creative mode, a person intentionally designs the life he or she wants, and doesn’t allow circumstances to be the primary driver of their life.

Tim Hortons is in an interesting position.

On the one hand, its decision to stop running Enbridge ads may seem “environmentally friendly.” Indeed, it may very well be. (In fact, SumOfUs consider the ads being pulled as a “victory.”)

On the other hand, Tim Hortons didn’t actually take a stand for the environment. What they did was respond to pressure from certain customers. The company was running Enbridge ads to begin with. If no pressure had been applied on them, would they have stopped the ads? Probably not.

What we have here is a situation in which a company REACTED and RESPONDED to the circumstances in front of it.

And Tim Hortons isn’t the only one reacting and responding.

Pro-oil individuals are expressing their grief, disappointment, and anger — IN RESPONSE TO Tim Hortons’ decision.

Some are reacting to SumOfUs’s “victory” by sending death threats.

I happen to be on SumOfUs’s email newsletter (by the way, they’re genius at crafting persuasive campaigns on behalf of humanity and the environment), and today I received an eblast from them.

Their call to action reads: “A person has threatened the lives of SumOfUs staff after a huge, public victory driven by SumOfUs members in Canada. Will you chip in to help protect our staff?”

The email made a compelling plea for donations to help beef up their security — after they received death threats.

This is yet another example of reactive-responsive behavior.

Something “happened”…which then prompted SumOfUs to ask for money to beef up their security. If no threat had been made against them, would they have posted this exact campaign? Probably not.

Of course, being alive means we’ll always have “circumstances” in our lives. But at some point, we have to decide if circumstances are going to be the primary driver of our lives, or not.

One could argue that I’m in the reactive-responsive mode right now, by writing this article. Had this “Tim Hortons vs Enbridge vs SumOfUs” drama not unfolded, would I have written this exact article? Probably not.

However, I made a decision to write this article with one overarching objective: to make a case for living in the creative orientation instead of the reactive-responsive orientation.

As you can see from the aforementioned story, when people live primarily in the reactive-responsive orientation — it brings nothing more than chaos, confusion, and fear.

Did Tim Hortons “over-react” to the online petition?

No. The company simply REACTED to it.

And therein lies the problem.

Tim Hortons should have decided long in advance whether it was the type of company that would run such ads in the first place. It should have decided long ago whether it was the type of company to take a stand for the environment, or not. And whether it it was the type of company to seek progress (as through environmentally friendly energy sources), or whether it would support outdated forms of energy that are detrimental to the environment (such as oil and gas).

Tim Hortons should have taken a stand FROM THE BEGINNING based on founding principles and values of its own company, whatever those may be.

Hardly anyone takes the time to decide in advance what they believe in, what their values are, or what they’ll take a stand for.

By responding to anti-pipeline pressure, Tim Hortons has essentially communicated that whoever applies the most pressure on them will determine the company’s decisions.

If the backlash of their decision gets too intense, hell — they might even reverse their decision! (Hopefully they don’t.)

When you draw the line ahead of time, you’re not at the mercy of external pressures. You can use your values as an unmovable rock, an anchor, a strong creative place from which to make decisions and take action.

That’s a much more powerful place in which to operate — compared to letting the pressures of life push you in one direction or another.

Talk soon,

About the Author

My name is Michelle Lopez. I'm a writer, editor, copywriter, and anti-marketer. I have a BA in English / Creative Writing from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Download my FREE report: "10 Anti-Marketing Tips: How to Sell Without Being a Sellout," available at

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