A Sweet Difference

I got to participate in a team building exercise on a recent business trip to Belgium.  Zaabar is a Belgium chocolatier in the center of Brussels and they offered a wonderful experience for our team as well as a delicious marketing lesson. 

Separate from the team building aspect, I thought that it was a helpful reminder of how brands can use a tour, a class or a hands-on experience to help explain value and differentiation. 

We started with a welcomed demitasse sized cup of hot chocolate. Then our guide provided a short 10 minute video and talk about the history of chocolate, how it is harvested and some details about the processing into ingredients that are used for baking or candy making. The brief lecture and images helped to transport us to the fields of Cote D'Ivoire (Africa) where most cocoa is grown. We got a brief glimpse into the way the cocoa pod (or fruit) is harvested, dried and fermented.

Our guide mentioned that the liquid gel around the seeds is fermented by locals into an alcoholic drink. We watched as men separated the fruit from its husk and removed the seeds. It’s pretty dangerous work as they use a rather course blade to cut into the harden fruit.  Then we observed how they separate the cocoa solids and cocoa butter in the processing room. 

I thought we got just the right amount of information even with the challenge that our presenter spoke English, not his native tongue to our multi-cultural group from Argentina, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and The U.S. And unlike many wine room tastings and tours, no one was speaking down to me. They used simple and clear language and terms to make the information informative but accessible. There was no jargon or pretense. 

Then we got our hands into the chocolate! 

An authentic chocolatier showed us how chocolates are made from the melted liquid. How it is sweeten, tempered and cooled on the marble slab so that it can be shaped into the proper consistency of single pieces, bars or irregular shapes. He made it look so easy as he shaped these elegant chocolate pieces with a dusting of cinnamon, graded pistachios and an array of decorative toppings. After his brief demonstration, we got to get our hands into the chocolate as we attempted to do what looked so easy when done by an expert. 

Guess what. It isn't that easy.

The candies my team created including an N for Nomacorc 
The Marketing Lesson
The important marketing lesson for me came when I got to experience the value and skill of the craft of being a chocolatier. So often we try and explain our brands through words, pictures or PowerPoint. 

Doing is powerful. Because of the hands on activity, I could truly understand how hard it is to control the chocolate as I swiftly work against the chocolate gradually getting warmer. 

As we attempted to make our truffles and other sweets, It was clear why this special chocolate had so much value. We had a first-hand understanding of where the art and craft merged. 

Although it wasn't part of the workshop, I was interested in learning how they handle subtle extracts or flavors like rose, sage or curry without losing the delicacy of the flavors. He explained it privately to me in language I could easily follow. 

I had a much richer understanding why their prices were so high after the class. And, I was much more willing to pay this premium because I could experience the artistry that created the value. 

The tour helped me connect at an emotional level with the experience and I quickly forgot that I was just buying chocolate. 

Three pieces I created during the class 

What Could You Demonstrate?
Is there a part of your business or brand that your customers could try themselves to help them understand why you charge a premium? How could you bring a classroom, workshop or tasting room experience to your target audience?  

Imagine a restaurant holding a cooking class for those who want to learn a few of the secrets of the kitchen? Imagine the Instagram postings that would come from that experience.

Can a portrait photographer teach a class of Dads how to make him just a little better when he photographs his kids by revealing a few tricks of the trade?

Could a coffee roaster offer a class in preparing the perfect cup of coffee at home?

Can an expensive dress shop create a small demonstration of how rare the material is in the materials used to construct the finished gown?

Could a winery give consumers a more complete hands on experience? It could be a tiny, small scale version of grape to glass but think how powerful the connections might be for the brand? Maybe they let you smell the sample of soil that you detect in different wines?

My attempt a creating a 3-D chocolate

How can you use hands on demonstration to give your customers a sweeter picture of value? Give away a few of your secrets and in return, your customers will increase their understand of why they do business with you.

Shameless plug from a proud Dad 

If you are interested in food, cooking and laughter, you might enjoy my daughter Fanny's blog called Fanfare Foodie. After winning the Rachael Ray Cookbook Competition, she is now busy writing her cookbook and sharing hilarious video tips on food she loves to make. She expects to be on a book tour next year promoting family recipes and inspiration. Come along for the journey.

To keep up with all things Fanny, please sign up on her site. Thanks. Check it out here.

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