A Gap in the Toblerone Brand (The Importance of Brand esSense #5)

Nov 10 2016

Why, oh why, oh why? Why would any brand manager take the most unique, distinctive and well known asset of a brand and change it?

Well Mondelez know better and have widened the spaces between the well known chunks of a Toblerone chocolate bar in order to save money (perhaps inspired by Brexit and rising ingredient costs). You can see the original and “gappy” versions of the product above.

In order to maintain current retail prices (and the packaging size) they have reduced 400g Toblerone bars to 360g and 170g bars to 150g. The change means that the gaps between chunks of chocolate are bigger than the chunks themselves. Mondelez said in a statement that, “to ensure that Toblerone remains affordable and retains the triangular shape, we have had to reduce the weight of just two of our bars in the UK”.

Toblerone was created in 1908 and urban legend has it that the shape of the bar was inspired by the Swiss Alps (the packaging shows an image of the Matterhorn). Whatever the truth of the origins of its shape, this is the single most distinctive feature of the brand.

It’s not clear whether Mondelez consulted their customers before making the change but the reaction has been very negative, with the change variously described as “stupid”, ridiculous” and “just plain dumb” and some have linked it to the recent post-Brexit Marmite fiasco.

For myself, I have always loved the brand and it seems a peculiarly mad thing to do, reducing the brand’s visible brand assets when there are other options (such as increasing the price as Marmite’s owners have and retaining the brand’s unique character). Michael Tat (as quoted in The Guardian here) wrote, “This must be up there with the dumbest corporate decisions of all time. You have a somewhat premium chocolate bar which is very well known for its distinctive ¬†shape, and to save money you change the shape? Now you have a premium priced product that looks like a weird knock-off of itself.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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