Karla Homolka is perhaps Canada’s most notorious serial killer, up there with her husband Paul Bernardo and Cliff Olsen. The sweetheart deal she cut with prosecutors saw her serve just 12 years before being released from jail. When she got out, she gave one interview, to a French TV station in Quebec. And they asked her, what is the first thing you plan to do now that you’re free.
Her answer no doubt gave the execs at Tim Hortons heart palpitations.
Interviewer: And what will be the first thing that you’d like to do?
Homolka: This is stupid. I’d like to have an iced cappuccino. An iced cappuccino from Tim Hortons, that’s what I’d like to do.
So what did Tim Horton’s do to distance themselves from the blond serial killer? Um, nothing much, really. They did make a brief statement, but only to say that Homolka’s remarks in the French-only interview won’t have any impact on sales.
“We know our customers differentiate our company and the relationship from her comments. And we have faith they can make that distinction.”
And given that the company has been on a huge growth curve in the past decade, and has continued to win hearts and minds of Canadians as a national icon, I think they were right. And I think they were right to keep their reaction muted and in context. Going too far in distancing themselves would likely have boomeranged back in a bad way.
Of course, that happened in 2005, before the days of mobile devices and social media. It might have gone differently if this happened today.