A couple of weeks ago, Whittaker's released its new commercial for Dark Ghana Peppermint into the wild. It featured a naked couple swinging about in the jungle and frolicking in pools of chocolate and, as expected, it led to a few wowsers venting their visual metaphor-hating spleens. Forgetting about the fun-hating crepehanger minority for a moment, the vast majority loved the new ad because it was different, slightly risque and visually compelling. But an interesting aspect of the whole tale is the persistent rumour that the chocolate used in the shoot wasn't actually of the Whittaker's variety.
According to someone involved in the production, the Whittaker's chocolate wouldn't melt properly (must be that high cocoa content). So they had to use *dun dun dun* Cadbury instead. As with all these scurrilous rumours, it comes from a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend, who mentioned the 'great chocolate change-out’ to someone at a pub, who then mentioned it to someone else. We met the f-o-f-o-f-o-f at the docks at 12 midnight, exchanged the goods, and they told us the old switcheroo was fairly common knowledge on the set. But Philip Poole, Whittaker's marketing manager, says the Chinese whispers are wrong.
"That's not true. We used Whittaker's," he says.
As for the ad itself, he says the response has been overwhelmingly positive so far (it's certainly been positive on the Whittaker's facebook page). But because it's a tiny bit risque and, with the racial element, potentially controversial (if you're looking for a sad indictment of society, check out the ridiculous comments under theYoutube Video"> YouTube video), he expected a few complaints and, as of this morning, eight of them had been made to the ASA.
"When you try anything a bit new, a bit different, you're always going to get some of that. We can't be all things to all people."
But what Whittaker's is to most people is a fiesty brand that's focused on quality. It debuted at fifth on the list of New Zealand's most trusted brands this year with Cadbury slipping to 36th and Poole says the Whittaker's 72 percent Dark Ghana block is New Zealand's highest selling single SKU chocolate variety.
"I think there's been a huge change in the last five to seven years, because consumers are demanding better tasting, better quality products. We've seen that in the chocolate market. People are just more interested in cocoa content. "
And as New Zealanders become more discerning and seek out more premium products—not just with chocolate, but across a range of different FMCG industries, Poole says—it seems as though Whittaker's still has the high ground in the great Kiwi chocolate war. In fact, it's probably fair to say that the rise of Whittaker's from what was a much loved local brand to what is now a much loved local brand that now has taken away significant market share from Cadbury is up there as one of the best marketing success stories of the last few years.