So what's a luxury brand to do in this economy? "Excess" has become a dirty word. A touch of luxury is fine–as long as it isn't overdone. Anything that's over the top is a no-no. Godiva, the upscale Belgian chocolatier, long known for marketing unabashed luxury in its luscious little bonbons wrapped in gold boxes, is faced with a dilemma.

A recent New York Times article titled: "Godiva Rides in a New Direction" points to how difficult it is for luxury brands to strike the right tone as they reposition for a new economic reality.
Rather than campaigning itself as an "alternative to mass-market candy brands" or discussing that it represents good value as a luxury brand, Godiva decided to take another tack. Why is Godiva a brand to buy during tough times? Well, we all need a few little indulgences, don't we? And we're all thinking gift buying and gift giving as the holiday season looms, so what better choice than a golden box of Godiva chocolates?
Godiva has launched a new campaign with an estimated budget of $3.5-$4 million. The theme? "The golden moment."
According to Godiva CMO and Senior VP for global brand development, Lauri Kien Kotcher, the campaign will be three-pronged in its goals:

  • Reconnect consumers to Godiva's Belgian chocolate heritage. The words "Belgium 1926" will replace the word "chocolatier" under the brand name.

  • Remind consumers about what Ms. Kotcher refers to as "the chocolate deliciousness" of Godiva with camera shots of luscious candies, some half-eaten.

  • Touch the emotions of consumers. The joys of giving, receiving and eating chocolates from the gold box evoke a "golden moment". Ms. Kotcher: "the golden moment" is to "become the new brand essence" of Godiva.

Pointing out that a lovely golden box of Godiva chocolates make a lovely gift for as little as $15-$25 seems to be a good move during recessionary times. The company has also introduced a lower priced line dubbed "Godiva Gems", featuring packages of smaller chocolates, individually wrapped to encourage sharing.
At $4.99-$9.99 per package, distribution has been expanded beyond Godiva's own stores to include newsstands, duty-free shops and in a first for the brand, supermarkets like Publix, Safeway and Wegman's. Perhaps wisely, Godiva Gems will not be featured in the new marketing campaign. It will be promoted with in-store advertising and signage.
According to ad agency director David Lipman, whose agency created the new campaign, "while the ads may be filled with socialites" with British accents–Lady Godiva was British, after all–the message is that "anybody could share these (happy) moments."
"It's aspirational," Mr. Lipman says, "aspirational in being happy, being elated, being exuberant."
The new Godiva campaign roll-out is timed for the holiday season–a key time in the upscale chocolate business, needless to say.

  • What do you think of Godiva's new strategy to focus on emotive, "golden moments" rather than "luxury"? Do you think this concept might be a winner for many luxury brands? Why? Why not?

  • What do you think of the curious decision by Godiva to launch its Godiva Gems line? Is it a good idea for upscale lines to offer lower-priced selections or does it cheapen the brand?

  • Luxury brands have been aspirational over the past two decades, in particular. Do you think a brand like Godiva can successfully shift its position from "aspirational for luxury" to "aspirational for happiness"?

  • What do you think of Lipman's assertion that even though the ads are high-toned with socialites, they show that Godiva can be for anybody? Mixed message? Conflict?

I'd love to hear from you.

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Ted Mininni is president and creative director of Design Force, a leading brand-design consultancy.

LinkedIn: Ted Mininni