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Naked Ambition: Godiva’s Move To Straddle Premium Approachability

Belgian chocolatier Godiva, a brand long equated with luxury, has launched a holiday campaign to give its image a slightly less formal feel. The move follows its 2014 introduction of less-expensive items like frozen drinks and may signify a richly conceived offensive against a burgeoning craft chocolate industry.


 

Here’s the situation. You’ve got $50 to spend on a special someone and have two choices: A pair of freshwater pearl earrings from Zales or a box of 24 chocolate truffles from Godiva. Both gifts are displayed in glass cases.

It is a scenario Godiva is evidently well aware of as it seeks to broaden its appeal beyond the premium set. Long equated with luxury, the Belgian chocolatier has launched a holiday campaign designed to give its image a more accessible feel. The “It’s More Than Just Chocolate” strategy will include in-store and digital content, such as a video series featuring one of its chefs sharing themes about chocolate.

Photo credit: Godiva

Photo credit: Godiva

“Godiva in the past has probably come across as a little bit more formal, but with this campaign, we wanted to make sure we were tapping into a real, authentic look and feel that’s more inviting,” Marie Han Silloway, Godiva’s chief brand equity and customer experience officer, recently told AdvertisingAge.

The campaign may be more than just invitational, however. It could signify a smartly conceived offensive move by Godiva against a burgeoning craft-chocolate industry, many parties of which can be found on grocery store shelves. And it is not the first – the premium chocolate maker has entered the frozen drink fray, and its rewards program is especially generous.

In a nutshell, Godiva’s efforts, particularly with its rewards initiative, serve as a premier example of how to maintain prestige in a market that is quickly crowding.

Chocolate Challenge: Boxing The Bars

If Godiva wants to be the foil-wrapped choice of the chocolate industry, it certainly has its opportunities. Chocolate sales in the United States are expected to reach $22.4 billion in 2017, from an estimated $21.1 billion in 2015, according to Statista. These gains follow a 2013 increase that represents the first time chocolate consumption has risen in the United States in at least five years.

That growth represents challenges as well, however. The chocolate aisle is increasingly populated with brands that tout organic cocoa, free-trade partnerships and healthy ingredients. Private-label chocolate enables supermarkets to be involved at competitive prices. And all are located where most shoppers find themselves at least once a week.

Further, chocolate still accounts for only half of U.S. confectionary spending, according to Mechtronics. Of that share, only about 7 percent of sales are generated from boxed chocolates. The lion’s share goes to chocolate-covered bars, which accounted for almost 47 percent of sales.

Flavoring Moments Of Happiness

Some may consider 7 percent of 50 percent a relative nib in the larger chocolate market. However, several consumer trends play into Godiva’s favor, including the movement toward “moments of happiness” and customization, as described by KPMG in a June 2014 report. It reports the emergence of “hybrid consumers,” who “economize on groceries while brightening life with such everyday luxuries as premium chocolate.”

These consumers may reach for the free trade, peanut butter-and-jelly-flavored chocolate bar in the grocery store, but those bars could in time bridge shoppers to top-shelf makers such as Godiva because they heighten chocolate appreciation.

Indeed, KPMG identifies luxury chocolates as the fastest-growing market segment. A trade group dedicated to the segment – the Fine Chocolate Industry Association – was founded in 2007. Godiva, in keeping with these trends, is polishing its gold-box reputation while inviting everyday consumers in.

In fact, its “More Than Just Chocolate” campaign is the latest in a series of competitive efforts in which Godiva is indulging: In 2014 it introduced less-expensive frozen drinks called Truffelatas and soft serve, and its Rewards Club program is hard to resist, promising members free pieces of chocolate every month and free gifts for every $20 spent.

Bon-Bons Of Relevance

Whether a $6 pumpkin Truffelata or a dark chocolate soft serve will distinguish Godiva from competition is not as important as the evident commitment behind these endeavors. After all, Godiva isn’t competing only against other chocolate makers; it is competing against other gifts, from those pearl earrings to cashmere mittens.

This is why, to me, Godiva is not merely striving for sales – it is striving for relevance.

Godiva is doing so by dedicating special care to customer recognition, product innovation and brand experience. As Godiva’s Han Silloway put it to AdAge in explaining the new holiday campaign:

“We want to connect with all consumers. … Part of this campaign was making sure that we came across as more approachable luxury because beautiful-tasting chocolates are more indulgent, and it’s a way to treat yourself and others, but also we wanted to continue to communicate that it’s something perfect for every day.”

It’s been almost a half-century since Godiva opened its first U.S. location in 1966, and its red-ribbon boxes still embody the meaning of indulgence. As long as they also trigger an emotional response, it has a good chance of remaining the salted caramel to our discretionary whims.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com, where Bryan serves as a retail contributor. You can view the original story here.

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