Finding the Golden Ticket

For nearly 50 years, children and adults alike have enjoyed the wondrous and whimsical tale of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Chocolate is one special type of product with which many consumers have a true lifelong relationship. For most, trying a new chocolate isn’t a huge risk. Consumers are generally open to eating a piece of chocolate offered to them without much brand consideration.

However, sales results prove that consumer purchase behaviors are driven by brand loyalties to just a handful of makers. Available data supports the notion that loyalties for other types of consumer products are quite strong. Take household cleaning products, for example; consumers choose one product from one brand and stick with it, often for life. There is not much deviation or experimentation from these brands. But are consumption behaviors the same for chocolate lovers?  Is there much variation in how the products stack up, or is it the brand name, rather than the chocolate itself, driving the decision? We set out to decide how much influence branding has over a presently thriving chocolate industry.

We opted to conduct a taste test to further understand how brand preference can shape a palate. Our team tasted milk chocolate composed of between 11% and 41% cacao from six brands spanning a wide variety of price points. We included brands with a varying degree of presence in the marketplace such as Hershey’s, an unlabeled block from small Venezuelan producer El Rey, Dove, Lindt, Godiva, and Green & Black’s.

The double-blind test had some interesting results. Half of our tasters chose Mars’ Dove bar as their favorite for taste and texture. Surprisingly, both Hershey’s (the lowest price point) and El Rey (the highest price point) were the other winning products selected. The overall scores of the products fell within a relatively narrow range, with the highest overall score averaging just 20% better than the lowest.

The experiment proved that the products available to consumers are largely equivalent in quality. In fact, for many consumers, there may not be such a thing as a ‘bad’ milk chocolate on the market today. In the end, reaching for that familiar sweet treat at the checkout counter remains a powerful experience. It seems that brand equity, including visibility, packaging, and price point, may be driving consumer purchase decisions, but the quest for the real ‘golden ticket’ goes on.

Do you have an idea for a product test that test brand experiences and consumer behaviors under the microscope? Leave a comment or email josh@junction-creative.com with your suggestions.

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