Katie Eckford is Senior Brand Manager at Fairtrade chocolate brand Green & Black’s Organic. Figaro Digital caught up with Katie to hear about some of the brand’s recent campaigns and the importance of marketing that is quirky, imaginative and full of flavour
Can you give us a little taste of what it’s like to work at Green & Black’s Organic? What does an average day look like as Senior Brand Manager?
Working in a marketing role at Green & Black’s means having a nuanced understanding of all aspects of the business, not just the creative side. I work across consumer insights, customer planning, sales and finance.
The first thing I’ll do on an average day is go through our daily sales to monitor performance against target. I’m working on planning at the moment and am particularly focused on budgeting, as well as developing customer strategy for next year. We’re also looking at the new product development funnel for the year and working very closely with all our agencies on campaigns such as the Taste & Colour van.
I manage a team of four: an assistant brand manager; a brand manager; a social media manager and a taste specialist. I’m also very close to Craig Sams, our founder, who regularly keeps in touch. Our team are all quite foodie and very much enjoy trying out new flavours. We have cooking competitions every couple of months to sample each other’s creations. Having a taste specialist also means that we get to do lots of varied chocolate tastings. We also have an ice cream business—we’ve just launched Mint Chocolate and Butterscotch is coming up next so there will be even more opportunities to test our palates.
Green & Black’s is a lovely team to work on, and it really helps that it’s a great product. Everyone who works on the brand is incredibly passionate about it, and I think that really sets us apart from others.
What would you say has been your stand-out moment (so far) at Green & Black’s Organic?
We launched a range of Thin bars this February: the Dark 70%; the Milk 37%; the Mint Crisp; and the Salted Caramel Thin. I think the stand-out moment was when the production samples came through of the Salted Caramel Thin.
It was a fantastic moment because the idea for the project was born a few years ago, and I am so proud and pleased that I was able to see it to fruition and launch it to market. Opening the packet, unwrapping the cardboard and the foil, and then breaking a piece of chocolate for the first time was a great feeling.
From an edible ice cream sculpture in Covent Garden to the UK chocolate tour, Green & Black’s Organic have made some brilliant edible brand experiences. Why is this playful experiential marketing so essential (and effective) for the brand?
I think Green & Black’s has always been a little bit quirky. We started off as a brand 24 years ago with Maya Gold—the first Fairtrade product in the world. We were organic, and that was a completely new concept. Everything we did had a touch of amusement about it, and that’s something we try to continue today.
As we don’t have the budget to do a big TV campaign, it’s really important for us to create brand appeal. Consumers expect something a little bit different from Green & Black’s and, importantly, they expect it to be all about taste.
When we launched the Taste & Colour tour in Portobello market, we had a beautiful cocoa tree made entirely from cake and chocolate, created by Miss Cakehead. At each stop on the tour, we’re linking with a well-known foodie, chef or café in the local area and creating a bespoke recipe for that town, using Green & Black’s chocolate. The most recent stop was Brighton Pier, where we created a Sussex Pond Pudding. The next stop will be Bath this month.
It’s these injections of personality that help keep the brand so exciting and different. Events like these give people the opportunity to really engage with Green & Black’s. They enjoy themselves and then take photos to share on social media.
Can you tell us a bit about the recent Taste & Colour campaign and how it came about?
We always talk about taste. Twice a year, I stand up in front of 400 sales people and talk about taste, taste, taste. And if you look at the whole Green & Black’s range, you’ll see that it’s bright and colourful too. We know that people buy items and enjoy things according to colour. It increases appetite appeal.
Colour is a part of food that Green & Black’s can really own—it’s not something that Divine, Cadbury’s or Lindt have. And that’s because we care about our foodie credentials in a way that no other chocolate brand does.
So this is definitely a theme which I think is memorable, and which works on all levels. The Taste & Colour van is visually very bright and colourful, and we have taken this into our press campaign strapline: ‘If you like reds and blues [wines and cheeses], then you’ll like Green & Black’s’.
In all its 24 years, Green & Black’s Organic has never ventured into TV before. Can you tell us a little bit about the project?
Working in partnership with Channel 4 meant that we could get talent we never could have afforded alone. We created a series of videos using people like Emilia Fox and talented Michelin-starred chefs. It worked really well for us. Interestingly, while we were all really excited to be on TV, I think we actually got the best results from social media and video seeding. The 30-second clips we were showing really surpassed our expectations in terms of shares, views and interactions.
A downside of digital is that it doesn’t allow consumers to taste or smell the chocolate. How important does this make visual/video content in bringing the products to life?
Hugely. Our social manager is a talented photographer, so he’s able to create bright and colourful images of the chocolate, which resonate really well on social media. Although you can’t see the chocolate flowing, a beautiful picture of chocolate is always going to make you salivate.
Last year we produced several short videos of our taste specialist creating recipes. We did it to a tight budget: just our cameraman and a kitchen we’d hired. The most effective scenes are those where he’s pouring or stirring the chocolate. We’ve got a lovely brownie recipe with raspberries and white chocolate, and when he’s pouring the mixture into the brownie pan and squishing the raspberries in, it just looks incredible. So yes, visual like that is wonderful. It can really get people’s appetites going.
How important is the concept of emotion to the brand’s marketing?
Emotion is absolutely essential if you want to be memorable. Say someone tries some of the pudding from the Taste & Colour van at Brighton Pier and enjoys it, that’s an emotion. Or if they learn something new about the chocolate from the sampling team—that can spark powerful emotions too. We don’t like giving out samples without talking to someone, creating a reference point, and that’s why it’s important for us to go to events and do face-to-face tastings.
Everything is about creating an emotion around the product, be that nostalgia, understanding or simply happiness.
As represented by the brand name, Green & Black’s Organic is all about its ethics. How does digital help you amplify this brand image?
While we know there are core people that buy Green & Black’s because it’s organic and Fairtrade, the most important thing is still taste. So when we put out paid posts, we’re better off using a chocolate cake every time.
Saying that, we have some wonderful stories to tell as a result of our work with Fairtrade. We source our beans in the Dominican Republic, and we’ve got biographies of men and women who have educated their children and brought in basics like running water because of the Fairtrade premiums that go to the area. This is something that, as a team, we’re incredibly passionate about and we’d like to get it right as there are other brands that are doing it really well.
Which other brands’ marketing do you find inspiration in and why?
There was some amazing content that came out of Cannes this year. I was particularly moved by a campaign by Always, which involved the brand linking with women in Mexico to develop words for the female anatomy which, in the traditional language, don’t exist because it’s a taboo subject. Cervical cancer is a big problem among these women, and now they are empowered to describe the issues they’re having. The work was really moving and so original. Kenco have also done a fantastic campaign called Coffee vs Gangs, helping men in South America find work.
If you could create one flavour of Green & Black’s Organic chocolate bar, what would it be?
This is the hardest question! My favourite at the moment is the new Salted Caramel Thin. If I was going to have anything, I’d love to have a filled bar with a smooth salted caramel inside. But, sadly, we have production limitations.
Interview by Estelle Hakner