The Shorty Awards honor the best of social media and digital. View this season's finalists!

Special Project

Special Project
From the 13th Annual Shorty Awards

Smile Cookie 2020

Entered in Multi-Platform Campaign


Every year the funds raised by Smile Cookie Week have a direct and tangible impact all across the country. Our primary goal for 2020 was ambitious: raise the highest amount of money ever generated for Smile Cookie. This required raising an amount in excess of $9.8M.


In a year when so many individuals and organizations were challenged by COVID-19, the need for help would be even greater than normal. We had to deliver for the country.


To reach our goal, we needed to drive strong campaign awareness levels to maximize the number of Canadians who would be aware of Smile Cookie week and the benefits it creates.


In a short-term event like Smile Cookie week, there’s a very limited window to create awareness of the event and its positive impact. The campaign needed to break through quickly and establish its critical core messages in time for customers to plan on visiting at least once during the week.


Next, we had to transform awareness into purchase intent. Our goal was to increase customers’ intent to purchase a Smile Cookie by 5% – but we grew by 7%. This was during a pandemic with traffic down 20%, some restaurant closures and restrictions for in restaurant seating. We also wanted to drive a 25-30% lift in social conversation.

Strategy and Execution

The Smile Cookie campaign was built around two principles: drive awareness of the impact, and drive enthusiasm for participating.


Our strategy for increasing awareness and purchase intent was to highlight how 100% of proceeds from each Smile Cookie helped support local charities, and to showcase those specific charities. Through social listening we discovered that people were more responsive to the campaign knowing that it focused on local initiative; they were excited to know that they were helping someone in their own community, rather than someone on the other side of the country.


Focus on the human impact, not on the financial numbers

Fundraising campaign targets can be hard to translate into real impact for individuals. We wanted to showcase the real charities and real people that benefited from the Smile Cookie proceeds. To do this we created and shared a Charity Toolkit that franchisees could use to share their local information. Customers could see that we were working hand in hand with the charities at a local level.


A product that radiates positivity

The Smile Cookie is an icon for Canadians - decorated with bright blue eyes and a big pink smile. It’s the visual hero of the campaign, and the style of the campaign had to match that. All elements of the campaign featured a vibrant red and blue background that added a strong branding connection. We found that people loved the various looks of the Smile Cookies – wonky smiles, crooked smiles, even frowns. They embraced the ‘flaws’ because they speak to a locally created product, in store. As there was lots of conversation online around the imperfect cookies, we wanted to complement the hard-hitting local aspect of our campaign with more lighthearted and socially relatable content.


Driving Awareness of Positive Impact

Television, Radio and Out of Home focused on the main message of the campaign, that 100% of proceeds help support local charities. Our Digital Video took this message a step further by showing the specific charities that would benefit. Expanding more in this digital space, we created geotargeted web banners that showed the charities specific to each region.


Driving Enthusiasm for Participation

To drive enthusiasm and harness love for the campaign, we embraced the imperfect aspect of Smile Cookies. Our Snapchat Lens married both approaches by turning users' heads into a not-so-perfect Smile Cookie while also providing a personalized message that showed where your Smile Cookie proceeds were going. We also created a Snapchat geofilter that gave you a personalized message that displayed your community impact. We leveraged guest's pictures to make interactive polls and meme content on Twitter. We leveraged those same images to create a social video that reinforced the overarching message that not every smile is perfect, but every smile counts.


After raising $9.8 million in 2019, the 2020 campaign established a new Smile Cookie record by raising $10.56 million for local charities across the country.


In ordinary circumstances, achieving the highest fundraising amount in the program’s history would be a noteworthy outcome. In 2020, it was an exceptional one. With the impact of COVID-19 on the business, traffic across the country was tracking at -19% year over year, but Smile Cookie grew +5% versus 2019.


The campaign delivered 20MM social media impressions, with 265K engagements, 11.2K mentions of #smile cookie, and 99% positive or neutral sentiment.


We also had our best performing Twitter Poll of all time with 22K votes.


In community management, we leaned into the not-so-perfect cookie content. This allowed us to engage guests in a way that felt more playful and natural to the platform, leaving guests smiling.


Lastly, this content approach was used as an example in Twitter Canada’s most memorable Twitter brand campaigns of 2020 wrap up in the “Best Brand Pivot” category. A clear indication that not taking ourselves too seriously resonates with our guests and platform partners.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Tim Hortons


Entry Credits