Nestlé Hopes to Spread Wonka Magic to High End

Wonka, the Nestlé candy brand, is making a bigger play in the premium chocolates category, a surprise move, given the economic downturn and the brand’s traditional focus on kids. (Wonka’s candies include Nerds, Laffy Taffy and Gummies. Much of its history is linked with the launch of the 1971 movie, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.) Playing on the movie’s magical/fantastical element, the candy maker this month launches Wonka Exceptionals, a premium line of chocolates that includes products like the Scrumdiddlyumptious Chocolate Bar, a Chocolate Waterfall Bar and a Domed Dark Chocolate Bar.  Brandweek discussed the launch with Wonka brand manager Vilma Livas, innovation manager Natasha Madan and Janet The Planet, innovation manager on the Wonka experience. Note: Janet The Planet is that woman’s legal name. Really. 

Brandweek: Nestlé is relaunching its Wonka brand with a line of premium, “Exceptionals” chocolates in a downturn. What prompted this launch?
Janet The Planet:
Three years ago, we took a long, hard look at what we’ve been doing with Wonka in the past, and we wondered if we were really delivering all that Wonka deserved. [The brand has] an amazing story. We spoke to a lot of consumers—across a huge age range—and we did a deep exploration of what the Wonka brand meant to people. We realized this is a story that people experience in life and that stays with them for their entire life. It’s got enormous meaning for people. It stands for creativity and the power of imagination and it really inspires people and reminds them of what’s possible in the world. Our existing portfolio, at that point, had been developed for and really spoke to tweens and younger kids. But we had this incredible brand with all this emotional meaning for people, and we didn’t really have the portfolio to deliver on what was possible. So, we wanted to bring the power of Wonka to life.

BW: Okay, so how exactly does that play out in this campaign and product launch?
When people think of Wonka, the first thing they think of is chocolate and many people think they’ve had it before. But our business on chocolate previously was very small. But ultimately, we have this huge [consumer] awareness about the idea of Wonka and chocolate. At the same time, they expect something amazing, as it’s coming from the world’s greatest candy inventor. We can’t go half way and expect to be able to deliver on that incredible Wonka experience that’s in line with what people imagined [from seeing the movie]. So, we really needed to invest in the contents of the product, to create something that was beautiful and of quality chocolate, and something that people can really indulge in in a whimsical and imaginative way. So, we’ve taken very accessible ingredients and  given them a Wonka twist.

BW: There seems to be a magical, fantastical element to this new launch. That’s odd, given premium chocolates tend to be a category where there isn’t that much excitement.
Natasha Madan:
It’s about bringing that fun back to that category. The premium chocolate category doesn’t necessarily have to be stuffy. There shouldn’t be a specific reason to indulge. Consumers should be able to enjoy chocolate not just on any particular occasion, but just because. We can bring that fun back into the category. With the colors we have on our packaging and the products we’re launching, we think we’ll be able to rejuvenate that category and break into that sea of brown and purple [packaging] with [holographic] purple.

BW: How are you advertising this?
We’re launching it with a Golden Ticket promotion. [Nestle has tucked 10 golden tickets for a family trip around the world in the new Wonka Exceptionals line.] We had the world premiere of Wonka at Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York. We have long lead magazine outreach, and print and TV advertising kicks off at the end of May/beginning of June. We also have [various] events planned, and advertising in cinema as well. We’re also partnering with our retailers to bring the Golden Ticket promotion to life in stores.