When Tim went to China, he splashed out on new threads and shined his shoes.

Iain Montgomery
Jun 20 · 3 min read
A Tim’s that actually tastes like coffee

For years, western executives have found looking east to be an easy answer to growth. Many thrived, a lot returned home with their tails between their legs. Those who are still here, doubling down or are only just starting to make the jump into the Middle Kingdom all have something in common. Foreign brands wear their Sunday best in China.

Not 10 minutes after leaving the hotel for a stroll in Xintiandi, one of Shanghai’s bougiest districts, us Torontonians stumbled on everyone’s favourite blue collar Canadian friend, Tim Hortons. And holy crap, Tim is looking good. He’s showered, shaved and out to impress. Oakville and Moncton couldn’t feel further away.

It’s the classic way to show up in new markets, a chance to reinvent yourself, look a little more like who you want to be, not who you might really be or have been, behave a little differently, take a few risks and create the new you. We hope it works because we liked it, not only are the old classics lovingly served (and iced capp for Monty) but there’s new things like coffee that tastes like coffee (for jetlagged Jake) and different baked goods not available back home that we didn’t try.

And while there were more than a few westerners in the place, overall it was most seats taken by locals drinking coffees that back home would be a couple of bucks for more than double the price. Critically this seems to build status over local alternatives or me too propositions.

And it’s not just limited to Canada’s iconic coffee brand, Starbucks have made a statement opening their enormous Roastery concept here bang in the middle of Shanghai’s main shopping district.

Starbucks Roastery — West Nanjing Road

In fast food, Taco Bell and KFC look like places you’d actually want to eat, Nike and Adidas concept stores (we assume they’re real!) are everywhere, Dyson show off their vacuum cleaners like pieces of art and even Aldi have brought a rather beautiful little concept to town recently too.

We’re starting to see Chinese brands arriving in Canada now, primarily restaurant or bubble tea café brands like The Alley or Morals Village too. Seemingly to some decent success with our diverse population.

So, our question is how might Canadian and American brands bring some of these brands back home to their core markets and what impact might it have on their performance? Because now we’ve had a taste of Tim’s new Shanghai look, we’d like to get some of it in Saint John too.

Two Bulls in a China Shop

Market Gravity takes on China to learn all about people, technology and business in the Middle Kingdom.

Iain Montgomery

Written by

Innovation Consultant. Former Market Gravity & Deloitte Digital. It’s Now or Never.

Two Bulls in a China Shop

Market Gravity takes on China to learn all about people, technology and business in the Middle Kingdom.

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