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Even great new products need marketing

What could be easier than selling brilliant-tasting, fairly-traded chocolate, asks Robert Craven.
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I’ve been keeping a careful eye on my friends at Madécasse, the chocolate makers in the States.

And it looks like I’m not the only person who is keen to see the brand succeed. Seth Godin has also been writing about the company in his blog, contemplating the brand, the package and the story, and wondering what the owners should do to get the chocolate bars leaping off the shelves.

So here’s my view:

The product itself is pretty good. And so thinks the New York Times: “These days my favorite chocolate isn’t certified by the US Department of Agriculture and it’s not Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance stamped. It’s Madécasse, made from cacao grown in Madagascar’s naturally organic forests. It’s traded fairly and is environmentally friendly.”

One rave review, however, does not make a business.

So, does the packaging say “buy me, buy me”? Like Godin, I am not convinced they’ve got it quite right.

Here are a couple of one-liners that always come up fairly early on in my discussions about sales and marketing:

* Why should people buy from you if you’re the same as the competition?

* What makes you different from the rest?

* Do you understand that marketing is not a battle for the product but a battle for the mind of the customer?

No-one disputes the quality of the product, at least not once they’ve tried it. But for Madécasse virgins, it is tricky – they will buy the product because it has either been recommended (in which case the packaging isn’t so vital) or because the packaging entices them.

Currently the packaging doesn’t make the chocolate leap off the shelves: it doesn’t tell a story; and it doesn’t scream “buy me”.

I think Madécasse is being too modest and shy. For specific shoppers (green/organic/chocoholics/environmentalists/third worlders) this chocolate should be “the only one”. Why would I want to put money in the hands of the global capitalist scum when I can give it direct to the workers via Madécasse?

So, here are two things Madécasse must do:

1. Identify a specific market niche. Get it sorted and sell specifically to them.

2. Work the word-of-mouth marketing systems. In this world of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and so on, you need to get your raving fans to help you sell your story.

I suspect that these two actions probably apply to your business as well!

I see that Madécasse has launched a mini-video on YouTube – a brilliant start. Raving fans want to feel as if they “belong” to the brand and that they understand the story. They want to take part in the journey.

Like Hobbs House Bakery, Madécasse has a great history, great provenance, great product, great story. It deserves every success.

Robert Craven spent five years running training and consultancy programmes for entrepreneurial businesses at Warwick Business School. He is the author of business best-sellers Kick-Start Your Business (foreword by Sir Richard Branson) and Bright Marketing. He now runs The Directors’ Centre and is described by the Financial Times as “the entrepreneurship guru”. For further information, contact Robert Craven on 01225 851044, rc@directorscentre.com

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