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Should have left it alone, Toblerone

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Who’d have thought that on the day that the US Elections were trending worldwide, that the second most popular hashtag would have been #Toblerone.

It’s no secret that as a nation, we don’t like change, as was demonstrated in the recent reaction to the redesign of Toblerone bars in the UK market, blatantly widening the gap between each triangular chunk. Working with a number of FMCG brands, I’m constantly immersed in the conversations in the media regarding commodity prices and how they can impact a product’s profitability but there are always various ways to work around this and it is imperative to think about the implications on the brand and parent company.

The obvious option for Toblerone would have been a price increase, yet brands have begun to live in fear of price increases due to consumers who are not afraid to boycott brands, as demonstrated by Marmite-gate which sparked controversy in the media whilst still encouraging a positive surge in sales.

But rather than being transparent and taking consumers on the journey, Mondelez decided to throw Toblerone under the shrink ray, something that has been the target of criticism for the past couple of years. What’s worse is that a) it’s not a discrete change and b) the statement issued had a lack of emotion that ignored the attachment that consumers have developed for the product. As The Guardian reported, a customer rightly stated that “if you [Mondelez] were really that concerned about Toblerone customers, you would have consulted them.” In a day and age where access to global conglomerates is much easier, brands need to consider every consumer as a potential brand advocate, and on the flipside a potential risk to their reputation.

From looking on the Toblerone website, the product is referred to as having a ‘special recipe’, a ‘unique shape, and an ‘instantly recognisable logo’, so why jeopardise this and not consider the potential damage that changing this heritage product could have on consumer loyalty. In my opinion, as a premium product from an iconic brand, the price increase could have been justified by reassuring consumers that they would receive the same product that they’ve enjoyed for years. The irony is that despite avoiding the much dreaded price increase, most consumers have stated that they would have preferred a price increase rather than the change being made to their favourite bar.

It is undisputable that a brand cannot consistently absorb rising costs, however I think that brands need to be careful and take #Toblerone as an example of why genuinely thinking about what’s best for the brand is vital. The impact of this on the brand’s future reputation and sales is yet to be seen, but with the key seasonal sales period just around the corner, I don’t hold out much hope for booming success this Christmas.

Jessica Kirby
Senior Account Executive

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