It took years to get the owners of Godiva Chocolatier to license the brand for a chocolate liqueur. It took a lot less time to learn that building the brand would not be easy.
Despite the absence of a meaningful liqueur in the portfolio, distribution was slow and since liqueurs are not a fast moving category, the turnover rate was even slower.
There’s a great story of a Seagram executive who goes to a Chinese restaurant on Long Island and, while he and his family are waiting for a table, he spots a bottle of Godiva on the back bar. This is the last type of restaurant he would expect to find the product and figures that the distributor sales rep that sold the account must be at the top of his game. What could he have said about the brand that got this small neighborhood restaurant to order it?
He goes up to the owner and says, “What did the salesman tell you to get you to take in the Godiva?” The owner, looked a bit puzzled at first, then smiled and said in a thick Cantonese accent, “Oh, he say two free vodkas if I buy the Godiva.”
After much research and thought, we came to the conclusion that despite the power of the brand name, there was a discontinuity between the expectation of the chocolate taste and the delivery of the product. When you say chocolate to people, they think, chewy, sweet and unique mouth feel. This is hard to deliver in a liquid product without ending up gloppy. So for many, the expectation was chocolate but the product delivered a Kahlua-like consistency.
We had to move out of the chocolate-only world and get closer to cream liqueurs. Two line extensions were introduced, a cappuccino/chocolate and a white chocolate, both cream products.
These strategic line extensions had a number of benefits. First, the facings went from 2 to 6 and the billboard effect on the shelf got the brand noticed and bought. Second, despite the adages not to line extend from weakness, the new forms actually benefitted the base brand (original), which started to grow. A brand that was languishing in the 10,000 cases range grew to nearly 50,000. After Diageo got it, it grew to over 100,000 cases.
I noticed that the brand dropped back to 50,000 in 2009. I also noticed that Campbell sold Godiva Chocolatier to a Turkish company called Yildiz. But I don’t know whether Diageo still has the license and distributes it. Anyone know the status of the brand?
One thing I can tell you is that if you see a bottle of Godiva on the back bar of any Chinese restaurant on Long Island, I bet it’s been there since 1995.
Sort of raises the question about spirits brands and what I like to call ‘borrowed credentials’ – also known as licensed or endorsed brands. Stay tuned…