How Endangered Species Chocolate Brought Their Customers to Life with Consumer Insights

It’s hard to imagine there’s anyone out there who doesn’t like chocolate. But if you’re a chocolate brand like Endangered Species Chocolate, growing your customer base isn’t just about assuming that every chocolate lover walking down the street is a potential buyer.

That’s because every brand is different and every buyer is unique. And successfully acquiring new customers means first understanding who those customers really are so you can speak to them and reach them in the most viable ways.

Endangered Species Chocolate decided to figure this out by undertaking research to gather in-depth consumer insights. The anticipation was that by gaining a deeper understanding of their audiences, they could go out and acquire new customers using more targeted marketing strategies and activities. And the same understanding could also be used to inform new product development and a product-launch strategy down the road.

The ESC challenge in detail

The Endangered Species Chocolate (ESC) team kicked off this initiative by completing an audience segmentation analysis to develop core consumer personas. They then took a deeper dive into three of their five audience segments — for our purposes here, we’ll call them Segments X, Y, and Z — with the goal of better understanding the nuances of those three segments and what made each one unique.

Also as part of this initiative, the ESC team wanted to gain a more holistic view of the shopping journeys of each of the three audience segments, as well as how best to reach and message to these key consumer segments to convert them to more loyal customers.  

With the unique audience intelligence they uncovered, the ESC team hoped to be able to engage with its highest-value consumers in more impactful ways.

The solution and research

The ESC team leveraged GutCheck Constellation™, which connects survey data with billions of big data points to provide a holistic picture of consumers and how to effectively reach them. Specifically, the Constellation solution uses proven, rigorous survey methodologies that collect the right primary data from an audience, while connecting it with validated third-party data, using only what’s distinctly relevant to the specific audience at hand.

This methodology allows teams like ESC to further analyze and enrich their consumer segments and understand how to target them based on attributes like media consumption, lifestyles, interests, personality profiles, social listening, and other behavioral and purchase data.

With the Constellation solution chosen, ESC and GutCheck focused the research on this key question: How could the ESC team leverage a deeper understanding of audience segments to reach consumers more effectively as well as guide their business strategy?

In addition to the key question, they also came up with these research objectives:

  • Explore customers’ habits and practices by occasion across the chocolate category to build a more complete picture of purchase and consumption behavior
  • Understand media consumption by segment to learn where customers spend their time and how they can be reached
  • Identify key personality profiles, lifestyles, interests, and other traits by segment to better understand how to design products and messaging that appeal to them — essentially laying the groundwork for new product development and product launch strategy

The results

Within weeks, the ESC team had unique audience insights for each of their three key segments that included not only how to position the brand to each segment’s individual persona, but also to the masses. Comprehending what drives choice and usage for each of the segments could form the foundation for creating more relevant and high-impact messaging.

With the research in hand, Tod Dalberg, ESC’s director of brand and marketing, noted, “This research provided a depth of understanding to key barriers in purchasing; in particular, it helped us to explore and better understand how to leverage various marketing and promotional opportunities.”

He added, “Armed with this knowledge, we are able to more effectively and efficiently focus our time and investments to maximize both reach and ROI.”

Here’s a sampling of the consumer insights ESC uncovered:

Flavors and product preferences

All three audience segments had three favorite flavors, but Segment Y was much more likely to purchase one flavor in particular compared to the other groups, especially based on this segment’s personality type. Even though Segments X and Y had two favorite flavors in common, the messaging and positioning needed to reach both of them had to be different to speak to their unique personalities.

Creative and positioning

Based on the results of the study, the GutCheck team gave specific recommendations for each of the segments when it came to creative and positioning. For example, based on personality type and needs, one of the segments was more drawn to upbeat messaging, while another segment said they’d pay more attention to a notable flavor combination as well as sustainability practices. With conflicting attitudes about healthiness, the third segment needed to see a certain type of imagery both in stores and online.

Media, reach, and placement

All three audience segments were looking for something different when it came to the reasons — the whys — for purchasing chocolate. Furthermore, it was found that one of the groups could be most efficiently reached through traditional television, while the other two leaned more toward digital options, including certain social media channels.

To stand out on the shelf, Segment X could be reached via coupons and sales at one mass retailer in particular, while Segment Y was more likely to notice distinctive new flavors that appealed to the entire family. Segment Z, on the other hand, was more likely to shop at a different grocery retailer than the other two segments.

Supplemental findings

The ESC team was also able to understand:

  • Which additional foods and drinks each of the segments consumed alongside chocolate
  • Which segment was more cost-driven and had a particular go-to chocolate brand
  • The best way to position Endangered Species Chocolate to the masses
  • The television topics each segment preferred, like cooking, action and adventure, and game shows, for example
  • The types of blogs and online publications each segment frequented and where traditional media opportunities existed
  • Which segment had a wider range of interests compared to the other two segments and tended to lean more toward smaller brands

Based on specific consumer insights for each group, the ESC team better understood which messages to lead with — including where, how, and when to present them — to not only ensure individual campaigns could speak directly to the intended segment but also that communications for the masses would resonate as well.

This diversified strategy positioned the company to achieve maximum growth across all consumer segments.

As Dalberg confirmed, “The insights from GutCheck’s Constellation solution allowed us to receive a deeper understanding of each core consumer persona we had developed. The depth of information captured and the ability to leverage big data to provide additional context were extremely helpful and allowed us to better understand the messaging our consumers were interested in. We will use this information to build out our creative and messaging to better reach existing and new consumers.”

Informing new product development

What comes out of consumer research initiatives often answers more than just the initial question or objectives. Using customer-centric data to strategize around marketing and messaging can also form the basis for new product development.

For example, ESC uncovered flavor, health, competitor, and price point information that could provide direction for a brand-new chocolate product or a revamp of an existing product. And with ready-made consumer segments to market to, the likelihood of a successful product launch strategy is higher.

To see another example of how an innovation team at Nestlé used an agile research approach for a new product, take a look at the case study below.

Download Case Study