Are You Building a Chocolate-Bunny Brand?

August 26, 2015

What’s your favorite brand of chocolate bunny?

You know what I mean: Those rabbit-shaped confections commonly sold and shared at the Easter holiday, at least here in the United States. I’ll wait a moment while you ponder your answer. …

Struggling to come up with a favorite chocolate-bunny brand?

Here’s why that might be: Chocolate bunnies don’t lend themselves to making a lasting brand impression and connection. Their outsides, though molded into a fanciful shape and often robed in colorful foil, only go so far in grabbing and maintaining one’s interest. Then, when you peel back the packaging, you discover that the chocolate itself is typically low-grade, commodity-level fare.

And inside? Well, that’s where the biggest brand affinity challenge resides. Because the inside … is empty. Whatever anticipation and curiosity a chocolate bunny might manage to convey on the outside, inside, it’s all air.

There’s no there there.

 

Raising the Candy Bar

Now, by contrast, what’s your favorite brand of candy bar?

Mine’s Mounds. Something about dark chocolate wrapped around moist, chewy bales of coconut just hits my sweet spot. I’ll frown at checkout counters when I see every other candy bar under the sun except Mounds. I wrinkle my nose when people suggest Almond Joy as a substitute, because I know the chocolate won’t look and taste as dark and rich, plus I’ll have to nibble around those pesky, good-for-you almonds to get at the coconut I crave.

When I buy candy for doling out to kids at Halloween, there’s invariably one bag of miniature Mounds that gets “forgotten” in the pantry, yet still manages to disappear over the ensuing few days (OK, hours). I’ve even been known to barter aggressively with trick-or-treaters, offering two Snickers, five Tootsie Rolls, or an unlimited supply of Bit-O-Honey in exchange for just a few of their Mounds bars.

Clearly Mounds has connected with this consumer in a way chocolate bunnies never will. Because I’ve discovered there’s something special inside the outside of Mounds bar. There’s a payoff inside the promise.

I’m willing to bet it’s the same for you. Whether you’re a fan of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Kit Kat or Baby Ruth, you’ve adopted a favorite candy bar not so much because of its packaging, or even for the quality of the chocolate. Instead, the big and lasting connection comes from what’s inside, and what your favorite bar’s blend of external promise and internal payoff does for you and your taste buds.

 

Packing Greater Value Inside

So why are we talking chocolate bunnies and candy bars on a platform devoted to business?

Because a lot of corporate marketers are rethinking their brands these days. They’re listening intently to customers, studying the competition, reexamining their product portfolios and value propositions, all with an eye toward establishing a fresh, differentiated, customer-relevant brand positioning and message.

At the right point in the evolution of any business, a thoughtful brand refresh can be an extremely valuable strategic exercise. But done partially, a brand repositioning has the potential to result in a chocolate-bunny brand. All shiny and sweet-looking outside. But offering very little, or at least little that’s new and meaningful, for customers to chew on and savor inside.

How can marketers and their organizations avoid building chocolate-bunny brands?

By asking yourselves — before, during and after you work through your new brand strategy — not only what will we say and show to customers that might appear fresh and more colorful, but what are we actually going to do for them?

What will make us more relevant, useful and worthy of their attention and engagement? Below the packaging. Beneath the chocolate shell. What’s going to be our cream-filled or chewy-nougat center?

There are any number of value-adding ingredients that might be combined to operationalize and activate a new brand positioning and promise.

You might look to become more of a catalyst for community building or continuing education on behalf of your target audience. You could offer a new level of customization, personalization or high-touch service. Perhaps you’ll establish a guarantee for your product or service, where none existed before. Maybe you can invite customers to become co-creators, opening your R&D process to their input and collaboration.

I’m a huge fan of putting content at the center of brand reinvention. In fact, I wouldn’t advise building out a new brand strategy without having a content strategy at its core.

Content is simply too integral to what makes brands come alive in today’s marketplace. In fact, new research from The Content Council finds that corporate marketers and their agency partners expect their shared commitment to content marketing will nearly double over the next two years.

Relevant content is among the most immediate, measurable and potentially differentiating strategies you can adopt to make your brand more useful and attractive to customers and prospects. Add to that, it might be one of the least operationally or financially challenging ways to inject fresh brand value.

Because with brands, as with candy bars, most of the differentiation and added relevance comes not from bright new packaging or a fancier outer shell. It derives from the flavor, delight and sustenance you pack inside.

Hanley Wood Marketing
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Vince Giorgi
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vgiorgi@hanleywood.com

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