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How being distinctive helped a new chocolate company enjoy run-away success

You just might have heard of Tony’s Chocolonely – a relatively new chocolate company. And you might be wondering how its success relates to healthcare.

Tony’s was set up in 2005 by a Dutch journalist who was determined to make chocolate 100% free from the use of child labour. To raise attention to the issue, he even took himself to court for knowingly buying chocolate made with slave labour.

Now, with a turnover of €70 million, Tony’s Chocolonely is the biggest chocolate brand in the Netherlands. It has a market share of around 19% and growth of 27% compared to last year.

Clearly, the purpose of the company has been key to its success. For consumers, an association with a worthy cause means a great deal. But we all know that purpose alone is not enough for an unknown brand to make this scale of impact.

What else drove the success?

Well, Tony’s Chocolonely blatantly ignored the rules of what chocolate bars should be like. Their first bar was red – a colour that few other manufacturers have ever chosen for plain milk chocolate.

Furthermore, the chocolate itself is divided into a random pattern. So it looks unlike any no other chocolate bar. This unequal pattern is deliberate – it represents the inequality at play in the global cocoa production industry. The flavours are unique too – including Milk Caramel Sea Salt, Dark Milk Pretzel Toffee and White Raspberry Popping Candy.

So what can healthcare learn from this?

There are several key take-outs for brands looking to get noticed by healthcare professionals.

As with all brands and sectors, your story really needs to mean something to your audience. Tony’s did this by being authentic. Remember the old adage: No sound bites without substance.

Most importantly, however, is the need to be distinctive. Being distinctive allowed Tony’s to penetrate a mature market packed with numerous “stronger” competitors.

By being distinctive, brands in any industry can draw the attention of customers and influencers and open their eyes to the reasons to choose us over the competition.

Why do customers sometimes seem blind to your new messaging?

Ever wondered why customers haven’t noticed new information about your brand? Why it’s so difficult to change an established position in their minds?

Maybe it’s not because they won’t, it’s more that they can’t.

Our evolutionary history has always been about us as a species, learning and trying new things. But if that had been done without limits, the sheer number of failed experiments would have killed us all off long ago. That’s why there are guard rails built in to prevent this.

Once we’ve found something that works for us in a particular scenario, we tend to use that as our default position. This reduces the need for repeated risk taking, which could be prejudicial to our surviving long enough to reproduce.

Enter the uncertainty principle and negative transfer.

The uncertainty principle (not the Heisenberg one) states that people will pay more attention to stimulus that’s unfamiliar to them. They don’t recognise it and can’t predict what it means. So they will continue to pay attention until they feel that they know what it means.

At this point they not only stop learning about this particular stimulus, they are actively inhibited from doing so through negative transfer.

A common example of this is drivers who learned to drive in an automatic car. They often struggle more with a manual car than those drivers learning to drive for the very first time.

This concept is incredibly useful from a marketing perspective. If you are a major market leader, having your customers in a state of negative transfer is perfect as they aren’t looking to learn anything new about the problem you are solving for them.

So, if you want to communicate something new about your brand, you’ll have to do it in a way that your customers notice in order to push them back into uncertainty. Beware though, introducing the uncertainty principle at this point could destabilise your whole position, allowing your competitors to gain attention.

Find out how wethepeople can help you to use these principles and improve your communications whilst avoiding some of the pitfalls.