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  • Writer's pictureSylvie Barr

Another one bites the dust

Photo credit: Ashley Pomeroy

Do you like chocolate?

I do, so writing about this as I’m observing lent - not for religious reasons, but to detox my body as the Spring equinox is approaching - sounds a tad masochistic…

You may have seen this in the news a few days ago: owner Mondelez announced that Toblerone bars won’t feature the Matterhorn peak on their packaging any longer.

That is because they’re moving some of the production to Slovakia, and Swiss rules have become tighter since 2017. They state that national symbols are not allowed to be used to promote milk-based products that are not made exclusively in Switzerland.

Now you might agree, like some well-known figure in the marketing circles, that in this globalised society, nobody gives a hoot about a Swiss mountain featuring on a chocolate carton.

Well I beg to differ.

Call me old-fashioned, or perhaps it’s because I’m French, but food provenance is something I’m super keen on.

It’s also because I’m passionate about growing and nurturing authentic brands (I hope you’ve got the memo by now 😁), and keeping the connection with the founder’s original vision.

Let’s go back to the roots of Toblerone to illustrate my point.

The milk chocolate, nougat, almonds and honey recipe was created in the early 1900’s by the cousin of Theodor Tobler, who himself came up with the distinctive triangular shape (for which he applied for a patent).

In 1909 the Toblerone brand was trademarked in Switzerland, the name being a combination of the owner’s surname and the Italian word for a type of nougat, ‘torrone’.

If you look more closely at the packaging in the picture above, you’ll see the silhouette of a bear within the mountain, as the bear is the symbol of Bern, the Swiss capital where the original factory is based.

All these elements gave the brand very distinctive features (unique recipe and shape) from the word go and for many years, pride in provenance was high up there too in the brand messaging. There is no doubt that this combination helped Toblerone gain its iconic status.

For me it’s not only the removal of the Matterhorn on the wrapper that matters, it’s also the disappearance of the mention ‘Swiss milk chocolate’ and ‘Of Switzerland’.

If you’re a chocolate lover, you will know that the Swiss know a thing or two about making great chocolate. They were pioneers in making milk chocolate and perfecting the ‘melt in the mouth’ technique, something that you will recognise in the Lindt chocolate products amongst others (it was Rodolphe Lindt who invented the ‘conching’ method that gives this silky texture).

No wonder then that the Swiss authorities wanted to protect one of their flagship products with more stringent rules. After all, it’s the same as a sparkling wine being called ‘champagne’ only if produced in France, or a cheese called ‘feta’ only if produced in Greece.

Do you see this as protectionism, proud heritage, unparalleled provenance?

I don’t know, but what I know is that it helps a brand and a product being distinctive on a global market, and reassures customers of certain quality standards.

The irony of it all is that when I did a bit more research for this story, I found the following on the Toblerone website:

“2021 - The importance of being triangle

We reached back into Theodor Tobler’s history and came up with a rebranding concept that celebrates the importance of keeping true to your unique self in today’s world.

‘Be More Triangle’ champions the triangles that dare to be defined by their edges and quirks and inject premium chocolate with some much needed edge (three, in fact).”

Call me cynical, but this smacks of a much laboured attempt from a brand team briefed by the top brass to massage a far less romantic corporate reality: moving facilities to a cheaper place to manage production costs and protect the margins.

And yes, I know how business works: you need to make a profit to keep going, otherwise you go bankrupt.

My parting views are twofold though:

  1. The pursuit of relentless growth is what nearly got me to leave the world of marketing and branding. Now I’m confident that there are other ways to do business, more in line with cycles and Mother Nature. So if I want to see my world change, I need to be part of the change and show the way.

  2. The key thing I’d love you to remember from this story isn’t about the Matterhorn - let’s not make a mountain out of a mole (sorry I couldn’t resist 🤣). What matters is that a brand needs substance, it needs to be nourished and nurtured to grow and help your business flourish.

After many years in the branding arena, I’m convinced that as a business owner, you have a fabulous opportunity at your fingertips to infuse your brand with some unique, truly distinctive features: your SELF.

I can show you the way if you allow me.

If this story has inspired you and you are ready to inject substance and authenticity into your brand, book yourself a zoom call with me. It will only cost you a bit of your time, but it could pave the way for an amazing adventure: a voyage of self (re)discovery that’ll nourish your brand and fuel the success of your business.

I can’t wait to get to know you and your business story better.

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