It’s been 115 years since Theodor Tobler created what’s become the infamous triangular-shaped chocolate bar with matching packaging. Combining his name and torrone, the Italian word for nougat, Toblerone has become one of the most globally-recognised confectionary brands and a favourite for travellers picking up a quality Swiss-made gift as a present.
But it was recently ruled that Toblerone must relinquish its age-old Matterhorn logo due to the fact it’s no longer manufactured in Bern but, instead, Bratislava. Therefore, it doesn’t comply with regulations on using Swiss iconography.
Matterhorn logo? I hear you ask. You’d be forgiven for not immediately recalling it. Because, despite Toblerone being one of the longest-running chocolate brands to still exist, its name and shape is what makes it so memorable, not its logo.
Ownability decreases liability
That’s not to say its logo hasn’t had meaning. In fact, there’s been an age-old puzzle of ‘can you see the bear?’ within the logo itself – something many have failed to spot over the years, a little like the FedEx arrow which, once you see it, you can’t miss. The point is, though, this proves that most brands can’t rely on one asset alone, especially one as general and un-ownable as a mountain or bear.
The Matterhorn in-situ worked because it supported the brand’s heritage – authentically-made, quality Swiss chocolate. The peak of perfection, if you will. But it was far from able to stand on its own as a recognisable asset. However, if I was to whistle ‘da-da da da daaaa’ with no other context, you’d instantly know it was McDonald’s. Why is that?
Because of its rich symbolic power, music and sound are great sources of desirable meanings and associations for brands, making them ideal tools to shape a brand’s identity and improve/rebrand an image.
And McDonald’s has perfectly applied its sonic brand to complement its other assets. In its TV advertising, it’s always accompanied by the simple visual of its golden arches. Together, they form a strong audio, and visual association. And over time, they hold their own solo – because they are unique to McDonald’s.
Fortunately for Toblerone, whilst it loses its heritage Matterhorn, it now has an opportunity to create new assets that are original, flexible and - most importantly - ownable. The brand can now look at further opportunities to explore and flex its identity, and it should view this as a time to grow further by connecting with its sweet-toothed fans through different and new experiences.
Strategic sonic branding that is developed alongside other marketing assets has the power to offer automatic brand recognition – and it can also improve the bottom line. Studies show that brand assets, such as sonic brand cues, are more effective than those that are leveraged from wider culture, such as celebrities and music.
Colgate, for example, has a clear and recognisable look – if we say ‘red toothpaste brand’ you’ll automatically think of it. But if we say ‘red banking brand’ you might think of HSBC, ‘red telecoms brand’ - Vodafone, or ‘red drinks brand’ - Coca-Cola, and so on.
Red can’t be wholly owned and with so many toothpaste alternatives now, it was important for Colgate to distinguish itself further. Where the colour palette is an intrinsic part of Colgate’s DNA, its sonic identity is now becoming interchangeable with its visual one.
Brands on mute are missing out
Market maturity and availability of different touchpoints has provided brands with countless opportunities. The explosion of TikTok’s popularity has been hugely exciting for us at MassiveMusic – because we’ve been educating marketers on the effectiveness of sound for decades and now suddenly everyone wants to be heard.
Podcasts, streaming and the resurgence of radio means that marketers are taking the impact of sound more seriously than ever before. And it’s become obvious that those who have invested in it are in a far stronger position to adapt when needed – new survival modes, if you will.
As it moves away from its Swiss association, Toblerone has a new mountain to scale – developing an evolved identity in a technologically-driven world far different from its 1908 inception. A strategic sonic identity can build on this legacy and equity and move it in a new, exciting direction. We look forward to seeing and hearing its new peaks.
By Ed Trotter, UK Head of Business Development at MassiveMusic