Communication Studies


Master of Arts (MA)


Carey Martin


Advertisement, Canadian, C.S. Peirce, Patriotism, Semiotics, Tim Horton's


Advertising and Promotion Management | Broadcast and Video Studies | Communication | Marketing | Public Relations and Advertising


This study examines the content of Tim Horton's television advertisements from 1980 to 2014 from a communication perspective. Using Peirce's semiotic theory, this study examines the significations of Canadian culture as they appear within each advertisement for the purpose of establishing the time and extent to which Canadian culture was used over the course of Tim Horton's advertising history. This study finds that Tim Horton's advertisements did not purposefully use Canadian significations during the 1980s to create a connection between their brand and Canadian patriotism. However, after discovering Canadians' natural affinity to the Tim Horton's brand through focus group research in 1996, the Tim Horton's marketing team changed the focus of their advertising to reflect the attitudes of their research subjects. Starting with the "True Stories" campaign, Tim Horton's began to focus on the Canadian citizens who found community and national identity through purchasing their products. In the 2000s and 2010s, the Canadian significations grew stronger, including a much greater focus on hockey, using a national hockey icon, Sidney Crosby, as the country's voice. Although Tim Horton's continues to produce a small percentage of their advertisements that focus on specific Tim Horton's products, the majority of Tim Horton's advertisements have maintained a consistent message through their use of Canadian significations, stating that Canada is snow, hockey, community, nature and a good cup of Tim Horton's coffee.