Thursday, 18 September 2008

Chocolatier invests in branding

Thornton’s, the chocolatier, announced improved profits this year. Profits were up 19.6% for 2007/8 as compared with 2006/7. The really big news was, though, that in the press release ‘brand’ was mentioned as a success factor. Mike Davies, Thornton’s Chief Executive was quoted, “Underpinning this growth is the strategy we have been implementing to return Thorntons to sustainable, long term profitability by investing in the brand, developing innovative products, modernising the in-store environment as well as attracting and retaining the best people.”

What is really lovely, from a brand observers point of view, is that all the elements in his strategy are aspects of how to develop a great brand. With the central premis of ‘investing in the brand’ he then surrounds that with three major deliverables of brand experience – and thereby the customer’s reason to choose Thorntons.

1. Innovative products – no brand can exist without a genuine customer experience – the brand promise must deliver at the point of impact – the quality and ingenuity of the product is defining – just as Apple has achieved, again, with its delightfully brand endorsing iPod Nano-Chromatic – a rainbow feast for the eyes before they even reach your ears. Thorntons products had begun to be less than you hoped for rather than the classic brand goal of ‘exceeding expectations.’

2. Environment – the total brand experience and all that. The benefit of having a brand that has an outlet is that you can control and enhance the shopping experience. Chocolate is a gift of a product to work with – smell, taste, colour, texture…... Thorntons has (at least) twice been the theme of Marketing’s Brand Healthcheck. In 2001 Nick Moon of Futurebrand offered the advice, “See the film Chocolat and apply the little shop philosophy.” In September 2006 Futurebrand’s Jasmine Montgomery mentioned that, “Bizarrely, the brand fails to dazzle most where it has the biggest opportunity – in its own retail outlets. Plastic bins, crowded shelves, busy packaging, cheap plastic price frames and overuse of ‘offer’ stickers on the fascia contribute to an overall diminution of the brand experience.” Her advice,”Refit all outlets and remove all ‘free’ and ‘special offer’ window stickers. The windows should be the seducers of women.”

3. Best people – this is one of our favourite brand tenets – and so often not closley enough connected to brand programmes. It is essential that brand positioning works for the people in the company and is delivered internally in such a way that it motivates and excites. We always recommend working with HR to develop recruitment and remuneration processes that build the brand and reward brand behaviour. It’s not really just about getting and keeping the best people – it’s all about the right people.

So it seems that a focused and committed approach to investing in the Thorntons brand is really paying off. Their promise of ‘The Art of the Chocolatier’ is coming to life. A comment on Qype noted, after a visit to the new shop in KIngston, “Thorntons was just re-opening, after a brief but effective revamp. I didn’t recognise them at all…This new store is the first of five to open in the UK. Known as project Ruby, it’s bright, fresh, and very inviting. The counters are white marble, with tantalising display areas, each with their own distinct appeal: children, traditionalists, ice-cream lovers and sophisticated palates are all catered for. The feel is more modern, cutting-edge and deli-delights than olde world chocolate shop.”

Hats off to Thorntons for embracing the potential of real brand development. May their success continue. (I’m still looking out for the chocolate ears…)