Walking through Chicago O’Hare the other day I noticed a cute pop-up style shop for a fancy looking, seemingly imported chocolate brand called Vosges. Much to my surprise, the back of the Mo’s Bacon Bar featured the story of the founder, Katrina, as well as her inspiration for the recipe and her company.
I checked the production location, expecting to see an exotic French address, given that Vosges is a department in northeast France. But alas! Vosges is from Chicago in the good old US of A!
So what can we learn from a Midwestern candy entrepreneur about branding? The answer is – a lot!
The overall branding makes Vosges seem exotic, artisanal and giftable, with an underlying nod to indulgent luxury mixed with approachability. This combination is what makes the brand stand out.
Let’s take a quick look at how Vosges does this in five easy steps.
Step 1: Use a foreign name, real or made up.
Let’s be honest. Anything French that is related to food sounds tasty. Chocolate has long been part of the French elite, with King Louis XV eating it regularly at breakfast, and we have the French to thank for that irresistible treat, the chocolate croissant! Plus, the made-up name (intended to look Scandinavian) worked really well for Haagen-Dazs, so why not?
Step 2: Use supporting design elements.
The website conveys 19th century aesthetic and fonts with extravagant flourish, and the logo uses that 19th century French “metropolitain” font. The choice of purple signals luxury, and the gifting packaging (stripes, bows) suggest indulgence.
Step 3: Leverage language to the fullest.
The linguistic elements of the brand include prolific adjectives for embellishment, such as the description that “dark chocolate surrounds the molten, salt-spiked, soft caramel center.” Every aspect of the language makes the taste experience sound delectable.
Step 4: The product must support the brand objective (duh!).
In this case, Vosges uses exotic ingredients, some of which are imported (better stated – “flown in”) from far away countries, even if they might be ordered online and Fedexed in. Far away ingredients sound better paired with country of origin, like African rooibos tea, Tibetan goji berries, or even an appealing adjective, like the more common sweet Indian curry. Heck, even “local” ingredients sound exotic, like Michigan cherries or Black Hawaiian sea salt. All of these elements combine to form an air of excitement. However, part of the uniqueness of Vosges is conveyed through the pronunciation guide of the exotic ingredients (e.g., the phonetic spelling of “Oaxaca”). It’s not so fancy that you are looked down upon for not knowing how to pronounce what’s inside.
Step 5: Include a compelling story that connects with consumers.
The Vosges brand story is one of the unique aspects of the brand. Katrina shares her personal story and is pictured on the packaging itself, lending an intimate feel to the brand. This makes the chocolate seem real, hand-made — not like something manufactured by a large corporation but by an actual human being! Plus she is promoting causes she cares about, which makes her seem like a good person who is not just out to make money. We live in an age where we want to know about people’s personal lives, so it is intriguing, compelling and refreshing to see this on a chocolate bar.