Why Toblerone ‘baked commerce into brand building’ to drive awareness

Having earned itself a reputation as a chocolate bar people either bought at the airport or discount shops, Covid gave Toblerone the punch it needed to reposition and relaunch the brand.

Source: Bulletproof

Think about the last time you bought a Toblerone. Chances are it was at an airport, “or worse”, a discount shop, which even before the pandemic was proving to be a problem for the brand. Because while its brand awareness was high, Toblerone had little salience.

But with Covid grinding international travel to a halt and all non-essential retailers closing it became even more of an issue, and meant the brand was becoming “all but forgotten”.

“We have an awareness of 98% in the UK but actually spontaneous awareness is only 2%, so this is a brand that lacks a lot of salience,” explained Emanuel Gävert, global brand lead for Toblerone at Mondelēz speaking at Advertising Week Europe today (17 May).

While he said the “easier” option might have been to create a big budget TV ad, Toblerone decided to take inspiration from its founder and the “iconic” shape of its bar to create a fresh “brand expression” that connects product, brand and experience.

He admitted the brand had become “very stiff”, which was not in-keeping with its heritage.

The name Toblerone comes from its founder Mr Tobler and terrone, a type of Italian nougat. Gävert described him as a “progressive maverick” who fought for women’s rights 110 years ago and advocated for state paid maternity leave. He also opted for a triangular bar when the norm was square and chose to give his chocolate texture.

We want to learn on the fly as opposed to having all the answers upfront and that’s probably going to be the future of how we operate as an industry overall.

Emanuel Gävert, Toblerone

“So we thought this is actually quite an inspirational spark of a mindset that could have relevance even today,” he recalled.

Gävert said it can be easy to become “obsessed” by what “consumers tell us to do” or by the competition, so the brand decided to go down a different route “in the spirit of getting to know Mr Tobler”. The aim was to celebrate the “quirky” through the launch of Toblerone’s brand platform ‘Be more triangle’.

Working with agencies Media.Monks and Bulletproof, one of the first things the brand did was create a direct-to-consumer (DTC) platform as part of its plan to “bake in commerce and brand building in the same experience”.

Launching during the pandemic, while not ideal, meant there was a “sense of urgency” to get the project off the ground, whereas normally things take “much longer”.

Getting people on board internally

The brand was keen to go live and iterate rather than wait until it had a perfect product and is already on the third version of the website, describing the transformation as a “work in progress”.

“It’s not about waiting for a moment in time and spending all of these dollars on a transformation that’s going to happen overnight. We knew we had to get stuff moving from PowerPoint into the real world and get people engaging with what we do,” Gävert said.

This also helped build confidence – particularly among the wider team – as it has allowed the brand to test and learn, and then take a “slightly bigger step and then another”. Although he admitted it’s a strategy that has attracted “a little bit of heat” internally.

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“Ultimately this idea of let’s not guess what people will like, let’s get it out there and get some data to start fuelling our decisions, has proved to be a really important part of this journey. And it’s amazing how much opinions start to soften when you have real data of people actually behaving and experiencing, and engaging with the things that we’re doing,” Gävert explained.

He added it’s a “really good way” to understand what people like and don’t like.

Already website conversions are up by 377% and its revenue has nearly tripled. But rather than meaning the company has “cracked it” and knows exactly what it is doing, Gävert is keen to point out this is more an indication Toblerone is on a “good journey”. He said the brand is still learning as it goes.

“Even for a company like Mondelēz there is quite a different mindset that’s required from all of us, but also the ‘grown ups’ in the business. We want to go on this journey. We want to learn on the fly as opposed to having all the answers upfront and that’s probably going to be the future of how we operate as an industry overall,” he explained.