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Business Identity

Almond Roca - Thinking "Big" is easier when when you think "Global" like Brown & Haley

June 25, 2013

With an Almond Roca can sitting on my desk each day, I thought of an exercise recently while pondering possibilities for one of my favorite local Brands here in the Pacific Northwest - Brown & Haley - the makers of Almond Roca.

Years ago when I was part of the McCann-Erickson Worldgroup, we had a training exercise among our strategic planners which included a contest between groups to put together a marketing plan for McDonald's. Our team won that day in part due to a plan to introduce some of the global menu items McDonald's serves in other countries to other markets - which for those who may not be aware, can vary from everything like a "shrimpburger" or croquette burger in Japan to curried chicken sandwiches from India.

If you are 130623 Almond Rocasomehow not familiar with Almond Roca, as a confection lover I suggest you get yourself out of the house and try some now. It's worth writing about! You can learn its colorful history right here too.

Recently this "classic" confection has experienced a real boom of sorts in other markets, like China, where it has taken off with a somewhat more premium Brand image than it has here at home, and where it is seen as highly-regarded "gift" item in the gift-giving tradition of many Asian countries. 

But while I have tremendous respect and admiration for the "tradition" that Roca represents (it's basic form, packaging and colors have not changed much since 1927), my global marketer persona keeps wondering if there aren't more ways to share this treat in a way that more people can enjoy it.

In fact, a quick look around the world has plenty of ideas - and for our first look I'll focus on Japan, where I was lucky enough to work for fifteen years:

1. Packaging

In part because of it being widely sold in a tin, Roca has developed into a Brand where "Sharing" is a core part of its identity. Despite my personal failure to share much of it throughout a recent five can experiment, I thought there might be better ways to do this. The tin itself is not the kind of package one carries around in their bag, ready to share. Unless someone is present in your home of office, it is not the easiest packaging for the "sharing" folks out there to use! 130623 kit kat orange and chocolate

Kit Kat in Japan is somewhat of a hyper-innovator when it comes to extending itself: seasonal flavors, special packages, regional "gentei" (limited edition to THAT region), etc. You name it, they try it!

I like the idea of packaging Roca in a similar manner to this example: a hard-flip-top box that could hold 6-8 pieces, perhaps also wrapped in pairs. Easy to carry around in a purse or bag, and easy to share by popping open the lid and letting your friend take a double shot of Roca that will make their day.

In countries where folks entertain OUTSIDE the home and/or rely mostly on public transportation to get around, smaller convenient packaging is a must for those looking to have some Roca on the go...

2. Flavors

Roca has recently been introducing new flavors like Dark, Macadamia, Cashew, Mocha, Dark Peppermint, etc. (and ALL fabulous, by the way!).

Why not create a package like the one above with 3-4 different flavors in the mix? A Roca variety pack...give a fan of your traditional Roca an easy way to try ALL the flavors without buying a whole tin or bag. Are there seasonal flavors waiting to be invented? And if you can master the subtle blend of fruit and toffee, then there are endless possibilities for getting your fans to always be looking forward to the next "special edition".

3. Form Factor

I also wondered why must we eat Roca in the same IMG 7218   croppedsize and shape we have had since 1923? Surely there must be some other ways to enjoy it or share it? 

One of my favorite examples is the "Pocky" Brand (pronounced "PO-kee") from Japan. Originally a simple stick-like cracker with chocolate covering most of it, it too has evolved into dozens of flavors and packaging options, even well beyond anything Kit Kat has done.

Why not a "Pocky"-type Roca? A few packets of these with 4-5 short, thick pieces of "Roca Pocky" each in a sturdy box like the one shown here (See the "Pocky Midi", right), would be an amazing way to snack, and share.

- Or not share (as if often the case with my purchases).

The harder consistency of Roca's Buttercrunch Toffee means we 130623 chocolate teramisu toppocan even think about a longer, thinner version ("Roca Stix"?), like the "Pretz" from Japan, or my favorite "Toppo" (pictured right, with their Tiramisu version).

Again, 4-5 "Stix" in an envelope, 3-4 envelopes in a flip-lid box. Shaped and packaged like that, we can even think about an inside-out Roca, with the toffee on the outside covering a chocolate and almond center...

4. Authenticity

Finally, one thing that always strikes me about Roca and Brown & Haley is just how few people here in the Northwest know they are a local Brand.

I've yet to meet anyone who hasn't said they love when someone gives them a piece of Almond Roca, but then so few of them were aware it is made just down the street in our own downtown Tacoma!

Selling domestically or in international markets, Brands have more value when they can provide that sense of "authenticity" (especially true for foreign brands in Asian markets). B&H should be a local icon in the Pacific Northwest which could then leverage some of the goodwill the world has for this region to its products.

To do that, they need to start to own their own neighborhood better. I'm willing to bet that the highest per capita consumption of Hershey products in the US is probably somewhere in Pennsylvania...so why not invest in doing the same here in the Northwest? It would be a healthy way to boost the Brand story you tell in other markets as well (heck, why not use an upcoming anniversary of the Mountain Bar to sell a special edition "Mt. Tacoma Bar" with a retro wrapper available only in the Northwest?).

While I know extending a Brand through additional SKUs - especially those that require new factory processes and equipment - can be seen as an investment risk, I also know that for a successful smaller Brand like Brown & Haley to make that leap into the next tier there is a point at which one goes beyond being better at what you always do by redefining what you do, even by just a bit.

Thinking "big" is not as hard when you are thinking "global" in such a way as Brown & Haley.  Once you have that global footprint, solutions and opportunities are many times in plain sight.