The dark chocolate category has long been dominated by old world, stuffy and staid brands, driven by rational claims centred on provenance, craftsmanship and cocoa content.
Dark chocolate consumers have traditionally constituted an older demographic, often male and 35 to 60. These consumers have not been particularly interested in faddish foods, nor have they looked to chocolate as an indulgence in the same way that consumers of milk and white chocolate have. They often see themselves as cocoa connoisseurs who appreciate the unique, more natural cocoa flavour of the product.
Nestlé’s Club has been a steady performer in the dark chocolate category in Australia for over 20 years, competing most strongly with Cadbury Old Gold. In the past few years, however, an influx of international brands such as Green & Black’s, Lindt, Ghirardelli and Whittaker’s have entered the market, and it has also seen the introduction of private label offers all contributing to a surge in competition for Club and a shake-up of the category.
In Europe and the US, dark chocolate has been one of the major drivers of growth in the chocolate category with both markets witnessing an influx of new products and flavour combinations as the trend towards dark grows.
This growth can be attributed to a global increase in health studies and positive PR suggesting that dark chocolate, when eaten in moderation, can provide positive health benefits. It is high in antioxidants, has the potential to lower blood pressure and is also lower in cholesterol than other chocolate varieties.
These positive conversations around dark chocolate have led to a marked increase in interest as consumers begin to weigh up the pros and cons of milk versus dark. Many traditional buyers of milk chocolate, who were more comfortable with the idea of chocolate as a comfort food: less bitter and sweeter on the palate, saw these positive health conversations as a good incentive to investigate the dark section of the aisle.
Taking its cue from the international market, Club decided to focus on these inherent health benefits and tap into the burgeoning global trend. In 2008 Nestlé invested in sensory research to ensure it had the right product, a dark chocolate formulation that was both optimal in terms of taste and texture. The formulation was improved as deemed to be optimal for the Australian palate and distinct from the ‘European’ style and flavour of competing international brands.
The next step in the redevelopment of Club chocolate was to help boost the brand appeal among a broader demographic: predominantly younger consumers who needed a reason to really give dark chocolate (traditionally their granddad’s treat) a try.
To appeal to these consumers, the brand needed a complete overhaul.
Creative agency: Cowan
Nestlé wanted to reinvent Club as a brand that offered something seductive and different, shifting perception away from a product that was previously considered stuffy and boring.
The reinvention was to be achieved through a new visual identity that would stand apart from other brands in the category and perform well on shelf.
The main challenge for brand design agency Cowan was to make Club fresh and inviting, drawing in consumers and broadening the appeal of Club to a younger, more adventurous consumer base, while avoiding total alienation of current Club consumers.
Nestlé’s own research had identified that this younger demographic was more discerning and not afraid to be different or try a new flavour option, if given a reason. This insight paved the way for a strategy that would draw consumers into the Club brand by tapping into the intriguing world of dark chocolate.
Overhauling the longstanding brand identity for Club represented a major risk, but it was a necessary change to bring the brand strategy to life and broaden its appeal.
One of the main barriers to success was the existing Club logo. Despite being a focal point of the brand for a number of years, the oval device carried little meaning among chocolate consumers and no longer achieved cut-through on shelf. It also had limited appeal beyond existing Club loyalists.
Cowan’s approach was to replace the oval logo with a radical new look and feel that centred on an iconic ‘opening door’ identity. The symbolism encourages consumers to enter the intriguing world of Club with the promise of exciting new sensory experiences.
Not only did the doorway provide a level of emotional connection and intrigue, but it also provided an opportunity to build in a flush of colour to clearly differentiate the variations in the range.
The resultant impact on shelf is very strong, drawing consumers in via intrigue and mystique while, on a more rational level, also allowing consumers to navigate through the range and make their preferred product choice without stress or confusion.
The rational appeal was further enhanced by the new, invitation-style packaging – a collaborative effort between Cowan and packaging manufacturer Abaris. Rather than continue using the utilitarian flow wrap, Club defied tradition and adopted a cardboard casing in the shape and design of an envelope.
The structure reinforces the brand message by carrying through the symbolism of an ‘invitation’ into the world of dark. The glossy finish helps the packaging to really stand out amongst the more traditionally packaged competition and provides a tactile and premium feel far more befitting a product of Club’s quality.
Added to this the associated health benefits were a key driver in broadening the appeal of dark chocolate to a younger group of consumers, a group known to be more adventurous with trying new taste experiences. Collaboratively, Nestlé and its communication partners elected to show powerful anti-oxidant claims on-pack. The ‘better for you’ message was also reinforced via ‘%RDI’ and ‘switch to dark’ terminology, all affecting interest from the younger consumer groups willing to be introduced to the reinvigorated product.
More than just new packaging, the ‘opening door’ identity and the sentiment behind it became the big idea for the brand, an idea that lends itself to creative execution across numerous communication channels.
The new product entered stores nationally and started to replace the previous Club packaging. Previous stock was stickered in advance of the rebrand to alert consumers to the coming change. Nestlé supported the rebrand with a huge sampling campaign including in-store presence.
Above the line marketing rolled out including a brilliant CGI enhanced TVC and magazine executions.
The results have been revolutionary for Nestlé Club – its baseline sales have increased by close to 50% since the relaunch, despite some extremely heavy discounting activity within the blocks segment of the market.
Nestlé’s marketing manager for chocolate, Ian Bell, says, “Cowan delivered a fresh new identity for Club that is inviting, unique and delivers a message of freshness and vitality that we expect will capture a broader market share for the brand.”
A complete 360 review for the rebrand ROI, including Homescan and communication tracking data, is planned by Nestlé to assess the ongoing success of the rebrand.