George made chocolates which could speak "Happy Birthday" when eaten! How he marketed them and how he change the positioning when their speaking ability was gone! All about marketing excellence.
George Goodberry graduated from a well-known catering college as a chef. He had specialized in deserts, chocolate ones in particular. In his vacation, he had made a few batches of chocolates at home, neatly packed them and sampled them to friends. They were greatly appreciated and soon he was inundated with orders for them. The activity soon blossomed into a small business.
He was constantly searching for ideas to make better chocolates. During the course of his research, he came across an interesting article by Dr. Marian Smith about a biological product she discovered during her scientific research called Sodium Octavate. She claimed in the article that this unique additive to chocolate base seemed to add music memory to record sound octave in the end product. It was a wonderful discovery. But as she was busy with some other programs, the discovery lay at the embryonic stage in her lab.
George was fascinated with the idea of adding music into chocolates. He visited Dr. Smith.
“I am George Goodberry. I am a graduate chef and am making chocolates at home. I was fascinated with your article about the music quality of Sodium Octavate when added to chocolate. I could not resist the urge to visit you for an opportunity to work with it.” George introduced himself to Marian.
“My main research is something else and I found this remarkable substance and its unique quality on the side. But you look like the right person to study it and develop further. If you like, I will give you a sample and you can work it at home as I have no place to work on it here. Go to the fridge and pick out a test tube marked with NaOv.” Marian thought it was better if someone qualified with chocolates worked with it rather than it lying untouched in the fridge.
George jumped at the offer. “Oh! Thanks. That would be wonderful. I promise you I will study it with great interest. “ He went to the fridge and opened it. There was a box of test tubes in the fridge and he found the test tube with NaOv on it. There was also a tube with the label: ‘Bacillus Octavatilus’. He took both the tubes to Marian.
She said, ”Bacillus Ovtavatilus is the species of bacterium which produces Octavic Acid . This acid when neutralized by Sodium Hydroxide precipitates Sodium Octavate. You can propagate the bacteria in a standard agar medium and harvest the Sodium Octavate.”
“Can I have a sample of the bacteria too?” asked George hesitatingly.
“Sure, I have a dozen test tubes, so you can have one. And here are the instructions how to play the music.” She obliged, handing him the sheet of paper.
George returned home with both the tubes looking really pleased with the visit. He knew how to transfer the strain in the clean-air chamber and multiply it on agar base in a conical flask. He made 4 flasks, inoculating them with the bacterial strain. He then turned to the Sodium Activate powder which he had brought from her in a test tube. He put just 100 milligram of it in 100 grams of chocolate base and kept it molten at 45 degrees centigrade on a hot plate. He looked at the chocolate and spoke loudly, “Thanks Marian, I am really grateful to you.” Then he cooled down the chocolate by keeping it in the freezer for 20 minutes. He had followed all the steps on Marian’s instruction sheet to a T.
He took the chocolate out and put a piece of it in his mouth. As the chocolate dissolved in his saliva, he distinctly heard it say in his brain, ‘Thanks Marian, I am really grateful to you.’ It spoke only once before it disappeared in his gullet. He couldn’t believe it. He took another piece and put it in his mouth. The same result. He could hear the words, ‘Thanks Marian, I am really grateful to you’ once again. I was a fantastic discovery.
He made another batch with the words, “I love you Mom!” and took it to his mother who lived just a few blocks away. As she ate the chocolate, she said “You don’t have to say it. I know that you love me!” She had heard the message embedded in the chocolate. But George could not hear it. The chocolate only speaks to the eater; no one else can hear anything. He confided in his mother. “Mom. I have made chocolates which speak! What you heard was not from me. It was from the chocolate you ate! Try once more.” He gave her another piece.
“George, you are a genius! It did speak to me, ‘I love you!’ I don’t know how you did it. But it is simply marvellous.” She was overwhelmed with his achievement.
George left her with the remaining pieces of the chocolate and said, “You can eat them whenever you remember me.”
He realized the tremendous potential of the invention. He thought of branding it. Toying with a few names, he decided to simply call it the ‘Speaking Chocolate.’ That was the birth of a revolutionary new product!
He took the chocolates to a large manufacturer Cocoville Ltd. The CEO had to eat the Speaking Chocolate to believe it! They signed up a royalty agreement with George to manufacture the Speaking Chocolates in large quantities. They marketed the Speaking Chocolates with various messages. ‘Happy Birthday’, ‘I love you’, ‘Getwell Soon’, ‘Thank You’, ‘Congratulations’ and so on. They were a huge success. The chocolate sales soared sky-high. The brand was a real winner. But then there a huge demand for making recordable chocolates where anyone could put in his or her own personal message. Cocoville called George and gave him the problem.
George set out to try to find a solution for the popular demand. He made the base and mixed the Sodium Octavate in it but did not heat it. He just rolled it in large slabs of 500g and packed them in a foil. He then took one of the slabs and melted it to stir-able fluidity, and spoke the words “Recordable Chocolate” and then cooled and froze it. He got the proof that he wanted when he ate a piece of it and heard the words that he had recorded, ‘Recordable Chocolates’ as it chewed it. He had found the solution, and took it promptly to Cocoville.
Cocoville marketed the Recordable Chocolate as kit with 500g slab and printed foil wrappers. There were instructions how to record the message on the chocolate by heating it to stir-able melting consistency, speaking the words to it loudly and then freezing it. When cold and firm, to cut it into pieces and wrap it into the wrappers provided with the kit. This was a big success story. The sales increased twofold. George was happy with the rising royalty!
But not all the users put in good words into the chocolate. There were some mischievous brats who used the chocolates for menacing and harassing the consumers. One such person Anil sent a chocolate with the words, ‘Anna, your husband Kevin is a bastard. He is upto no good’ to a lady. She showed it to Kevin. He was furious and got his lawyers to file a case against Anil in the court of law for libel. But Kevin could not prove that the chocolate said the particular words to his wife Anna. They were spoken only once in her mouth and never repeated. It was only her testimony that the chocolate did indeed say it. The Court observed, “Assuming what she said is true , even then the case does not hold as Anil has not said it in public. There is no witness. It is not a case which can be proved. Besides, Anil has not said the words to Anna. It is the chocolate causing her to hear the words. Then it must be presumed that Anna spoke the words that she heard. Her creating the words might have been caused by a substance in the chocolate that she ate, but it cannot be held against Anil. The case is dismissed and Anil is acquitted.”
The decision caused a furore in public. Does it mean that anyone can send any damaging message through a chocolate and get away with it? A few persons received lewd messages which were nothing short of sexual harassment. A general line of advice passed around was not to eat the Recordable Chocolates except from close family and trusted friends.
But one day the consumers began complaining to Cocoville that the Speaking Chocolates had stopped speaking! The magic was not found. Cocoville immediately alerted George. He took samples from various production batches and ate them. Not a single one said a word to him. It was over. He panicked and took a sample to Marian. She smiled and looked at him straight in the eye. She said, “The strain of Bacillus Octavatilus must have mutated as these bacteria are not stable. I have been testing the master batches which I had kept and they too have stopped producing the Octavic acid. I am sorry; there is nothing I can do about it. Their ability to make the acid has gone. We have to forget about it.”
George returned to Cocoville crestfallen. The unique selling proposition of their Speaking Chocolate and Recording Chocolate had disappeared. Now they were no different than the regular chocolates. The CEO of Cocoville gathered his company’s marketing brains to review the situation. They analysed the problem and came to the conclusion that the essential attribute of the Speaking and the Recordable chocolates was to render a message with the chocolate. True, the speaking ability of the chocolate was a gimmick to startle the consumer, but it was just a form of communication of the message. Why not consider alternative form of communication? Why not leave a place for the buyer to write the message on the pack itself? And they must differentiate the new product as the speaking ability was gone and would not spell out the greeting in the mouth.
Cocoville worked out a marketing plan to come out with a new product called ‘Silent Eloquence’. These chocolates were like their normal product line but with a tag or a place on the pack for writing a personal message. The net-bag containing individually wrapped chocolate pieces or the box packing containing the pieces carried an ornate blank tag on which the sender could write out a greeting message. For the 100g to 500g brick slabs there would a cream colored rectangular place to write the greeting. The advertising campaign for Silent Eloquence chocolates was: ‘Silence is more Eloquent than Words! Taste the Message as you Chew.’ It was a campaign to turn the lapse into an asset!
Silent Eloquence chocolates were a tremendous success. They exploited the idea of giving a message with the chocolate. The message was not oral, it was written on the pack, and it was personal. There was no fear of harassment. The product concept appealed to the market. And the sales which were doomed, soared past their most optimistic projections! And that is thanks to the prowess of marketing nerds in analysing, planning and positioning the product!
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