packaging

Nivea showcases its brand history in an art exhibition

 

There's an interesting trend that I've observed over the last couple of years: more and more brands are exploring art and design in a whole new way. Instead of spending extensive budget on advertising, many brands are finding ways of staying creative by expressing their values in more subtle, artistic ways. Some brands (like Swarovski and Kipling, for example) consistently upgrade their collections by involving well-known talented designers and artists in their product development. Others express their artistic and creative side by sponsoring art exhibitions. And yet another approach for brands is to showcase their history through art, whereby their own products, ads, packaging and photos feature as objects of art.

 

To illustrate this point, let me give you an example of Nivea, a German cosmetics brand with a 100-year long history. To celebrate its 100th anniversary, Nivea wanted to show how the brand's visual expression (mainly packaging and ads) has evolved throughout decades. In an art exhibition that is taking place in Milan, Nivea has kicked off "a series of events and cultural initiatives aimed to enact the company's commitment in joining arts and industry." (For more, see this article on Coolhunting.com)

Another example of branded wine

I've already written a short post about branding wine.  I continue to see numerous attempts to create wine brands -- at least in terms of creating attractive visual identities. Check, for instance,  the Lovely Package blog to get an idea of how much creativity goes on in the wine business.  

Today, I stumbled upon yet another good-looking wine bottle, designed and marketed in Australia. Check it out:

 

 

Purely from the packaging design perspective, I like the bottle, though not so much the box that goes with it. What seems even more obscure, is the idea that so much effort went into creating such a striking bottle and packaging for a 2006 single vintage.

 

But seriously, wine branding comes across as an extremely complex and challenging subject.  Many companies do try to launch strong wine brands, but they often stumble and fall. Why does this happen? Is this due to the volatile nature of the product, consumer preferences (hey, maybe we just don't like branded wine, full stop?) or something else?

 

 

Ice Watch -- putting it all together

Jean-Pierre Lutgen CEO of Ice WatchThe sleek business card of Jean-Pierre Lutgen, CEO of Ice Watch, displays the addresses of his two offices: one located in Bastogne, a Belgian town near the border with Luxembourg, and another one in Hong Kong. From Europe to Asia, this funky brand has become true arm candy for millions of fans. Although the company was founded only 3 years ago, it’s difficult to refer to it as a startup, as the high brand recognition of Ice Watch internationally puts this company already in the league of well-established funky brands. Today, Jean-Pierre Lutgen, the creative and entrepreneurial founder and CEO of this funky brand, talks about his passion for Asia, plastic, marketing and putting pieces of the puzzle together.

SCHMOOZY FOX: What’s the concept behind the brand of Ice Watch?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: Ice Watch is based on two main elements: people’s desire to seize and express change, and a strong identity. To address the former, we have put together 10 different watch collections. Collections change twice per year, just like in the world of fashion. Their affordable price (staring at Euro 59 per watch) allows people to buy several watches at a time, so that they could match their different outfits, and different moods. We know that many of our customers like to collect different models of Ice Watch. Because they like change! Even our brand slogan is, “Change. You Can.”

The strong identity is seen not only in the funky and refreshing design of the watch itself, but also in its packaging, which has become an inseparable part of the product, and of the brand as a whole.

ice_watch packaging

SCHMOOZY FOX: To prepare for this interview, I’ve watched several videos about Ice Watch in which you talk about the company. But you rarely talk about yourself. What is your background, and how did you make Ice Watch happen?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: I studied at the university in Louvain-La-Neuve, and then I spent 10 years running a small corporate gifts company in Bastogne. I was quite different from my university friends, who all went on to work at established companies, and followed structured career tracks. My corporate gifts company had many ups and downs throughout the years, but I overall I enjoyed this highly entrepreneurial experience.

SCHMOOZY FOX: But besides studies and work, there must be other personal interests and skills that made Ice Watch possible?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen (smiling): You know, I think that success in life does not suddenly appear out of nowhere. Same with me, I can now see that a lot of my interests, passions and experience have developed over time. They were like pieces of the puzzle, lying around scattered on the floor. And finally, I put the puzzle together! For instance, as a small boy, I liked playing with pieces of plastic. I’ve always loved Asia. And I’ve appreciated the power of smart marketing. In addition to that, during my experience at the corporate gifts company, I made precious contacts in China, who later on became my very trustworthy manufacturers of Ice Watch. So, in the end, many of my passions, interests and skills fell into one place.

colorful ice watch

SCHMOOZY FOX: Often startups think that their brand will take care of itself. How did you approach the brand strategy of Ice Watch?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: My impression is that most startups apply brand thinking in the best case only to the product. This is not a recipe for success. For me, a strong brand concept was the starting point of the whole business. The raw idea was mine, but I bounced it off many knowledgeable people, and invested the necessary time into refining the concept over and over again. Afterwards, I made sure that each element of my business strategy supported the brand concept.

I did think through the brand strategy early on, indeed. I also knew that expansion of the brand, and the growing demand for the watches had to match our ability to scale up production very quickly. And this is when I could rely on the already established network of reliable business contacts in Asia. A combination of brand thinking and dedicated production facilities was really powerful.

SCHMOOZY FOX: It’s hard to believe the amount of press coverage internationally that Ice Watch has received since its launch. Can you attribute this success to a single event or a series of activities?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: I worked with PR firms in each of the countries where we were launching Ice Watch. But instead of fully outsourcing press relations, I myself was fully involved in organizing events and press conferences for journalists. I guess, as a complete outsider, I just thought out of the box all the time and spotted unexplored ways of connecting with journalists. For instance, instead of inviting them to the Ice Watch launch events by email, I insisted that we send them empty Ice Watch packaging boxes. When they received attractive boxes, of course they were curious to see what was inside. And when they opened them, they saw a custom-made invite which replaced the actual watch. They were intrigued, liked the packaging, and wanted to discover the product as well!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Who is the blond lady who features on almost all ads of Ice Watch? Is she a celebrity?

Melissa Ice Watch ad

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: She certainly has the looks of a celebrity! Her name is Melissa, and she is very far from the world of fashion and modeling. She works in her mother’s restaurant in the Netherlands. I had a very clear idea of what kind of woman could be our brand ambassador. I explained what I was looking for to a well-known fashion and art photographer from Antwerp, Marc Lagrange, and he found Melissa. The photos, as well as the rights to use them, cost me 10 000 Euros, which was a ton of money for a startup! But in reality, it’s very affordable compared to what I would have paid for a well-known celebrity!

SCHMOOZY FOX: What’s behind the name “Ice Watch”?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: Brand naming was an important aspect of the overall strategy for us. Initially, we wanted to make transparent watches, and “Ice” was a good match. But even though we extended the concept to a variety of materials, not only transparent, Ice Watch was still our top choice. “Ice” represents purity. Nowadays, when humanity has to deal with the problems of rising temperatures and climate change, ice has become a luxury! In other words, Ice Watch is pure, democratic, transparent in the way it communicates and connects to people, and luxurious at the same time!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Where do you get so much energy to develop your funky brand?

Jean-Pierre Lutgen: From working with people! I travel all the time, and I don’t sleep very much, but once I start working with passionate people around me, I find the energy back.

SCHMOOZY FOX: And finally, why is Ice Watch a funky brand?

Olga Slavkina & Jean-Pierre LutgenJean-Pierre Lutgen: The watch industry is rather traditional and somewhat conservative even. Ice Watch has stormed this product category by a refreshing concept, and its democratic values. “Funky” also signals “affordable” to me, and Ice Watch has become a true affordable luxury, able to brighten up the mood of many people around the world.

Zumba sells branded merchandise

I first wrote about Zumba, a funky Latin workout, almost a year ago.  In that post, I talked about the challenges that any services organization can encounter in its attempt to build a funky brand. The main challenge for Zumba, I said, was to ensure that its main customer touch points (places and ways in which people experience the brand) remain consistent. Which seems like a big task given millions of Zumba-like, or Zumba-inspired, courses currently offered around the world by external fitness instructors. Since then, I've taken several Zumba classes myself -- and not only out of my desire to do non-stop funky brand research! :)  I also wanted to ditch the workout, and join the party. ((Zumba's brand slogan)). My personal observation is that many of these classes had very little Latin about them, featuring non-Latin music, and non-Latin dance moves.

In other words, my own Zumba experiences have been patchy, and differed from one place and instructor to another.

Perhaps Zumba management (to learn more about the company, see an article about Zumba's founder Alberto Perlman published by Sprouter)  decided that keeping the brand consistent throughout its customer touch points was a difficult task to carry out.  Perhaps they thought that it would be a good idea to build the brand by selling Zumba merchandise not only online, but also in real life.

IMAG0462In any case, I am not familiar with Zumba's selected strategy, but here are a couple of observations.

I came across Zumba-branded merchandise on the shelves of Di a couple of days ago.  Di is a Belgian chain of shops that sell inexpensive cosmetics and home cleaning products. Di has also been expanding its health and wellness section by adding vitamins, food supplements, and slimming shape-wear.  This section is where I spotted sizable Zumba-branded boxes, sold at retail price of Euro 69.95 per piece (pictured above). They were placed on a shelf underneath a TV screen that featured a demonstration of a Zumba workout, with the message "as seen on TEK TV " ((a Belgian TV store)) running across the screen.

Each box contained 4 Zumba workout DVDs, as well as a set of small weights.  The packaging displayed a TEK TV logo.

What are the implications of this on Zumba's brand?

First of all, the importance of selecting appropriate distribution channels is crucial for building a strong brand.  Even though the idea of selling Zumba-branded merchandise seems  attractive  ((at least on the local market, it could be a way of tapping into existing awareness about the brand name that has been created through workout courses, whether "real" or not))  per se, where it is sold, is of even major importance!

What strikes me as quite inconsistent with what could be a very funky brand, is the association of Zumba with a TV shop.  I don't personally know very many funky brands that have been built through this not-so-funky distribution channel (but if you know, please submit a comment!)

I would question whether TV shops can reach the kinds of customers Zumba needs to be reaching.   I saw lots of professional women "ditching the workout, and joining the party" after office hours. Which means that they probably don't have the time to watch TV shop sales sessions during the day.  I suspect that an additional endorsement of a product by a TV shop means little to them.

Selling Zumba merchandise at a rather unexciting Di (think of it as an equivalent of the UK Boots, but with a somewhat duller product selection) would not be my top choice either.

To conclude, Zumba would be much better off building a funky brand through better selected and more exciting distribution channels.

NOTES

Baboushka branding part 2

I've already written about the trend of giving Russian or Russian-sounding names to products and brands in my post Baboushka branding or a bit of "Russianness" in marketing. In that blog post, I talked about a seemingly persistent trend among US and European companies to take inspiration for product and brand names from the Russian language.  Specifically, I talked about a concrete fascination by the word b a b o u s h k a. And here is another baboushka story for you!

I've just come across this post about a recently redesigned bottle for an Australian-produced vodka called Baboushka. While purely from the design point of view I find the bottle design quite okay, there are some details that struck me in the text of the article, namely:

1) According to the article, the agency that redesigned the bottle, "built an emotional brand story around the existing ‘Baboushka’ name avoiding Russian vodka inspired clichés." I wonder  how  can such a truly Russian name allow one to avoid Russian cliches, and why would one even want to avoid them?  Baboushka is just a common noun in Russian, there are no real stories attributed to it, at least in the context of its common use.

Image of Baboushka vodka. Incorrect Russian text is underlined in red

2) The Russian text on the bottle does not really mean anything.  I guess that «Премия водка» was an attempt to translate "premium vodka", quite unsuccessfully.  I suggest to brands that try to seek inspiration from foreign languages and cultures to always check with qualified people who speak those languages first!  :)

To conclude, the use of "baboushka" in brand discourse never stops to surprise me.  I think there's even some additional meaning that's been developing around this word outside of Russia, and some Russian-speaking linguists should definitely look into it.

As far as brand strategy goes, my advice is to check the spelling and meaning of foreign words you put on your packaging.  This will surely help you avoid some surprises!

Funky benefits of Benefit Cosmetics

LaughterLately, I've been busy interviewing founders of funky brands, sharing tips with you on various subjects of brand and marketing strategy, and hey, doing work for my clients. So,  I haven't as a result written a plain vanilla funky brand review in a while. Time to correct this bad gal's behavior!

Although, wait a minute, the brand in question is actually a perfect fit for any bad gal'. They even have a product called Bad Gal Mascara.

The brand in question is called Benefit Cosmetics, and its place of birth is San Francisco, which happens to be one of my favorite cities.

I guess it was the mention of San Francisco (written somewhere on the product display in a shopping mall) that caught my attention right from the start. To give this phenomenon a proper name, let's say that San Francisco was my first brand entry point for the Benefit brand.

In other words, it generated enough curiosity in order for me to continue exploring Benefit products.

And what did I find out?

Well, first of all, very funky product design. It was a true eye-catcher. A bit of a retro look combined with vibrant colors looked candy-like.  The shape of packaging also somehow felt right. I picked up a small bottle of perfume and just enjoyed holding it in my hands.

Second of all, there're funky product names. Check it out: "smokin' eyes", "some kind-a gorgeous", "my place or yours".

BadGalBenefitMascaraProduct quality? It seemed fine, although I can't be an authority on this subject -- I was in a hurry and thought I'd experience first instead of buying right away. So, I simply don't have an opinion on how long-lasting these products are, if their texture and scent are pleasant, etc. But I have a feeling that this stuff is nice.

Benefit Cosmetics was founded by twin sisters, Jean and Jane Ford, formerly models in NYC. After earning enough cash during their modeling career, Jean and Jane decided to invest it into something they knew very well -- make-up. And so Benefit was born.

Right now both sisters own a minority stake in Benefit, having sold the controlling stake to LVMH back in 1999.

As you can imagine, the business of cosmetics and make-up is extremely competitive. Dominated by huge powerhouses such as L'Oréal and the like (and this is just one market segment!), cosmetics brands have to struggle very hard in order to break through a huge level of competition. Therefore, it's important to stand out from the crowd.

Benefit for sure did it quite well through its packaging, product names (and the brand name itself which is pretty successful!) and its ability to tap into the city brand of San Francisco.

And, importantly, it is highly profitable, one of the important characteristics of all funky brands.

Does this mean that there's no need for any brand strategy and positioning work any more for Benefit to do?

Not at all. Benefit's consumers and their interests are evolving. New creative and funky-to-be competitors are coming to the market. There are indeed a lot of things to take care of if one's funky brand is to stay funky!

A funky yarn brand: Rellana hair

Source: www.trendhunter.com This photo of yarn packaging made me smile this morning.

Rellana, a German yarn and knitting supplies producer, wanted to target knitting fans who look for something special during this Christmas season.

The packaging clearly communicates that this kind of yarn is good for making hats and scarves.

The packaging of Rellana Hair is way more advanced than the style and design of Rellana's corporate site, for example, so I guess they still have a lot of stuff to do to build a strong brand.

But this packaging is a very good start towards making this yarn brand more funky.

Funky brands from around the world: Spain

Here is the "crowdsourced" list of funky Spanish brands that was compiled by contributors to the Facebook fan page of SCHMOOZY FOX, as well as Twitter followers of @FunkyBizBabe and @schmoozyfox

Aomori Apples from Japan

Source: lovelypackage.com This beautiful photo of packaging for apples caught my attention when I was browsing one of my favorite inspirational sites: The Lovely Package blog. This very tasteful packaging is creation of the Swedish designer Sara Strand, and it will be used as a container for two Aomori apples originating from Japan.

I already wrote previously about branding of fruit and vegetables, notably in my article about funky garlic, and later on, funky apples. The packaging created for Aomori apples is clearly a very strong element that can enable Aomori to stand out from the competition and build a brand. The only kind of information I could find about Aomori is that this is one of the best-known apple growing regions in Japan, and the apples that grow there are simply superb. I'd be definitely tempted to taste them, especially if I came across this wonderful packaging.

Introducing this attractive packaging design should certainly help Aomori build some nice brand awareness about Japanese apples. Good job!

All material on this site may be freely cited provided the source is given. Please use the permalink of the article. SCHMOOZY FOX  is a trademark of Creative Generation Lifestyle Services Ltd, a company incorporated in the UK. © 2009 CGLS Ltd. All rights reserved.

Italians, Paris Hilton and Prosecco

This post discusses the D.O.C.G. quality assurance label used for Italian wines, and discusses whether it will have repercussions for the Paris Hilton Rich Prosecco brand.

Turkish fashion in a tiny box

A couple of weeks ago I came back from my trip to Istanbul. I spent a week of great vacation there, exploring this wonderful city and its historical tbox1monuments. Apart from that, I (of course!) had to check the local brands, preferably funky and innovative ones. Prior to going to Turkey, I'd asked my friends, as well as posted questions on various social networks (notably asmallworld and LinkedIn), asking to suggest some funky Turkish brands for me to check out. Believe it or not, pretty much all answers had to do with something called T-box.

Having learned that T-box's main point of differentiation is packaging, or, rather, its size (you can buy your T-shirt wrapped in a tiny bag size of a matchbox), and having the impression that I'd certainly bump into a T-box shop somewhere in the city, I didn't even bother to note down any exact addresses. It turned out though that it wasn't easily findable, and it took me about 4 days before I bumped into it on the main shopping street of Istanbul. Unfortunately, the shop was closed -- on a Tuesday afternoon -- because at that time it served as a venue for some PR event of sorts. So, i didn't get to have a close look at those tiny packages.

And it's a pity. Because T-box, launched in 2003 in Turkey, has quickly expanded abroad, and currently has about 5000 stores on 4 continents. The whole concept is based on squeezing normal size clothes into abnormally tiny boxes, cone-shaped packages and purses. Apparently, it's the only Turkish brand which never has to lower its prices during sales seasons.

Do you know any other business idea based almost entirely on innovative packaging? Post a comment!

Can chewing gum be stylish?

The short answer is yes. Or at least this is how the brand managers of Wrigley's “5 gum” want to position it: a stylish premium product for the stylish wrigley5cobalt_wallpaper consumer.

I am not easily convinced to make impulse purchases. Displays of chocolate and chewing gum next to check-outs in supermarkets usually leave me pretty indifferent. Which doesn't prevent me from making mental notes about any new products appearing amongst the usual KitKats and Juicy Fruit. I have to say, for a long time I haven't seen anything strikingly new in these rather predictable displays. Now I hear that this may change soon as Wrigley is about to launch in the UK a new range of PREMIUM chewing gum called 5 gum. It is already sold in the United States. I suppose, five is a reference to the number of flavours in which the product is available:

Lush -- “crisp tropical”

Elixir -- “new mouthwatering berry sensation”

Cobalt -- “cooling peppermint”

Flare -- “warming cinnamon”

Rain -- “tingling spearmint”

The numer 5 is also a reference to the five human senses.

What's so premium about this new brand? First of all, the packaging is indeed very stylish, complete with “embossed black gloss packaging and sharp eye catching bursts of colour”. And apparently, this is Wrigley's response to the increasing demand of stylish consumers for a wider range of available flavors, or “taste sensations” as Toby Baker, marketing director at Wrigley, puts it.

How “premium” will the retail price of 5 gum be in the UK? And will Wrigley sell its 5 gum at any “stylish” distribution channels? Post a comment!

Inertia of family-owned businesses: the Belgian distillery Filliers

geneverToday I will talk about family-owned businesses and challenges they face in turning their products or services into funky brands.


Think of this kind of company structure: a mother or father is a CEO, and all the top management consists of offspring, cousins, aunts, uncles and other “extended family” members. Occasionally, they let outsiders in, and allow them to manage their businesses, but this doesn’t happen too often.


Many family-owned companies never succeed in achieving critical mass, lose touch with modern trends, fail to reinvent themselves and keep afloat the ever-changing customer demands. Sometimes, family-owned business produce high-quality products, but fail to exploit its potential to the maximum simply because they lack the necessary skills within the family team.


Here is an example of a brand you might or might not have heard about. Filliers, a distillery near Ghent (Belgium), produces genever, an fillierslogoalcoholic beverage made by distilling maltwine and adding some herbs, such as juniper berry. Think gin, but with some added zest.

Funky gin.


Filliers has a big potential to become a great and innovative brand, but seems to be somewhat trapped in its century-long traditional thinking.

I had a chance to visit Filliers as part of a local business networking group whose members went to the distillery mostly out of recreational purposes. My own interest was mostly triggered by a bottle of sweet currant Filliers brew sitting in my fridge. A nice flavor, 20% alcohol volume content, and quite an unattractive bottle made me think that perhaps Filliers could have some potential on the alcoholic beverage market, if re-branded, re-bottled, and modernized.

fillierscurrantgenever


First, we were shown a promotional video about the company. The two things were repeated again and again: technological advances allowing to distill Filliers beverages in the best way possible, and traditional values of the family business, which dates back to 1880.


At the end, there was a demonstration of the current range of products. Unfortunately, nothing was mentioned about Filliers's customers.


Craftsmanship and tradition are certainly important in the business of producing genever – no wonder that genever produced by Filliers is quite good. But who buys these products because of their traditional manufacturing techniques?


The old-fashioned look and feel of Filliers bottles probably does have some appeal to Baby Boomers. I am not sure though that many of the sweet and creamy flavors (passion fruit, for instance) would attract a 60-something guy in a local pub.

Confusing.


And it's a pity – the spirits markets in Europe (including Eastern Europe) as well as the US are thirsty for some innovative brands.


An example of how a traditional beverage can stand out and be different is the new brand launched by Paris Hilton: PARIS HILTON RICH PROSECCO. Who would ever think of packaging bubbly into cans?

proseccocan

parishiltonproseccoad

Simply superb, Paris, great product (I've tasted it) and great ads! Read more about Prosecco Rich here.

Filliers should open up its family business to a creative team of “outsiders” with some solid business background and intuition for marketing. Given the overall good quality of the Filliers liquors, I can imagine a zillion ways of identifying new markets, creating a totally different product range and packaging. There is definitely a lucrative niche in the market to make it possible. I have a lot of ideas about how Filliers could reinvent itself, so if it (or a friendly LBO firm) is listening, get in touch!

Recession and luxury brands: the end of fun?

This post is a reaction to an article by Martin Lindstrom about luxury brands in a recession. It addresses the main question: does it make any sense for luxury goods and services to ensure ongoing sales by lowering retail prices?

Right moment, right message, right place: how to build luxury brands using social media

Is it time for luxury brands to get engaged in more pro-active marketing in social media, or does the concept go against their brand values? This blog posts addresses these issues and gives a couple of examples to illustrate them.

Chocolate and Online Branding – Sweet Dreams or Bitter Reality?

I couldn’t resist an impulse purchase of two tiny boxes of Pierre Marcolini chocolates on Place du Grand Sablon in Brussels this morning; even though I had to pay 16 Euros for the pleasure! I wandered around the stylish shop, carefully examining nicely wrapped chocolate goodies displayed on its two floors and wondering about the relevance of brand building in the chocolate business.

If buying chocolate has mostly an impromptu character, isn’t it just enough to care about having attractive shop windows that are enough of a catch to lure customers in, or do chocolate producers need to care about building longer-term relations with their customers? While the latter option seems obvious to me, Belgium is full of small shops with a very local reputation that sell superior quality chocolate, but who have probably never considered setting aside a chunk of their budget to try to build a brand – or wouldn't know where to start.

Some “chocolatiers”, like Pierre Marcolini, and some others, have embarked on the path of trying to make their names known across Belgium and abroad. Anecdotal evidence suggests that, at least on the local Belgian scene, Marcolini has succeeded in making its name known to chocolate-loving connoisseurs. The major achievement of Marcolini in this respect has, in my view, been an attempt to give its shops an ultramodern look that immediately set them aside from smaller old-fashioned competitors. But if Pierre Marcolini cares about its further growth and international recognition – after all, it has opened stores in the US, Kuwait, Japan, UK, Luxembourg and France –it might consider giving a bit more thought to improving its online presence and making it part of its wider brand-building strategy. In order to do so, it would first of all need to take a fresh look at its web site.

Let’s look at the Belgian site of the chocolate producer -- www.marcolini.be (why not include the name “Pierre” in the domain name?) -- from the usability point of view;

The main page brings us to a flyer for the recently published book “Eclats” that is said (in tiny text that I could read only by moving my face very close to the computer screen) to be available in a range of shops. There are no details about the contents of the book (I suppose it has to do with chocolate) and reasons why anyone would want to buy it.

The main page then gives you some further options for surfing: three language options (French, Dutch and English), as well as “Site Map”. A click on the English version leads to the story about Pierre Marcolini himself, and “Company” provides a snapshot of the main achievements of the brand in chronological order. The tab “Collections” is empty for the moment, and “Events” hasn’t been updated for a while. The page “Contact” briefly mentions a possibility of buying corporate gifts, but the link where further information about them is supposed to be displayed, is “In the construction.”

As I am very used to the fact that on web pages in Belgium content information often differs depending on the language, I attempt to reach the Pierre Marcolini page in both French and Dutch. But it’s not an easy task! I can’t access the language options by clicking on “Home”, so I need to shorten the now expanded domain name address to www.marcolini.be again, in order to reach the main page with the info about “Eclats”. Voila! The French version of the page contains a new tab unavailable in English, “Solutions enterprise” or “Company gifts”. It contains a small collage of chocolate boxes with text below them mentioning that these, indeed, are company gifts. However, no further information is provided on how to order these gifts! Same thing on the page in Dutch – no further info on the subject.

Given its international presence, I was hoping to come across a corporate site of Pierre Marcolini, but what I´ve found was a number or local, country-specific sites. For instance, the US site www.marcolinichocolatier.com gives some facts about the business, but looks quite incomplete. The tab ¨online shop¨ redirects you yet to another site, www.pierremarcolini-na.com. The latter, in its turn, does not seem to be fully functional as some of the goods described just don´t want to go into the shopping cart!

Apart from the imperfections of the mentioned sites, someone at the company must have nevertheless thought about the consistency of visual identity – the shop design, packaging and some elements of the web sites follow more or less the same color and style pattern.

What strikes me in particular, is the discrepancy between Marcolini´s grandiose shop in a stylish location, and its quite undeveloped web sites, mediocre both from the conceptual and technical points of view. Even if strengthening its brand through a variety of online initiatives might not be Marcolini´s strategic priority at the moment, the company should at least boost the look and feel of its web sites, as well as think of using the brand name consistently throughout the country-specific sites. This seems especially important since the chocolate maker is pursuing the path of e-commerce. Imagine how important it would be to help foreign visitors to Brussels relive their pleasant chocolate shopping experience online! Then, thousands miles away from the gorgeous flagship store, they would continue being fans of the brand. And aren´t most brands dreaming of such a ¨lovemarks¨ effect?1

1. Described by Kevin Roberts in “The Lovemarks Effect”, PowerHouseBooks, NY, 2006