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Was the Tony's Chocolate Christmas Calendar An Epic Marketing Fail?

We currently use 'devastating or devastated' to describe situations of threat to humanity.

For example, Kentucky, USA, devastated in large areas by tornadoes. Migrant life, lost in the English Channel, starvation of survivors of war in Afghanistan.

According to some parents, it also describes the feeling of their children on realising that on the 8th of December 2021 there was no chocolate behind the door of their Tony's Christmas calendar.

It is now the 6 days later and the Twitter storm rages on.

Pay a visit to the website of the chocolate company Tony's and look at their mission statement. It reads:

' 100% slave free the norm in chocolate'

It goes on to explain:

"Things aren't being shared evenly in the chocolate supply chain. The chain starts with millions of farmers who produce cocoa and ends with the billions of consumers who enjoy chocolate. But what about the bit in the middle? This section is dominated by a handful of chocolate giants that profit from keeping the price of cocoa as low as possible. As a result, farmers are forced to live in poverty. And that leads to illegal child labour and modern slavery."

To summarise, the whole point of the Tony's Chocolonely company is to draw attention to the inequalities in the chocolate industry that equate to modern slavery, in this context, mainly affecting people living in Ghana and the Ivory Coast.

How could anyone be upset by a socially motivated company trying to bring awareness to modern slavery through a clever marketing gimmick? Or as the BBC called it 'stunt'

Again language matters here. A stunt feels like a trick, certainly in marketing terminology it is used that way. With the intention of hijacking attention. Marketing is all about attention after all. More eyes on products pays the bills. More lines in the media achieves the same.

Was what Tony's did a stunt? Or was it a useful way of illustrating the absence of something expected?

The BBC also use the term ' the self-styled ethical chocolate company' in what feels quite a derogatory manner. After all isn't every company self styled? Unless based in North-Korea perhaps.

Tony's Chocolate Calendar

They expanded on the reasons behind the calendar.

A twitter thread explaining why there was a chocolate missing from December 8th.
The reasons behind the missing chocolate

What do I think about all this?

In terms of marketing fails, the company have now apologised. According to the BBC article the firm has said it is sorry that its move caused "confusion and disappointment".

You can look at this two ways.

  1. Tony's have had a great result. How many people actually knew their name until this situation blew up social media? They have now pushed their cause into the limelight which actually helps the people they seek to serve surely? After all attention is everything.

  2. This was an epic marketing fail, because the company tried to reach past their already well defined, ethical trade supporting customer base. Not everything is built to scale. Should ethical companies seek to engage the average consumer knowing it may well end badly?

Tony's will never be for everyone, and that should be ok.

At £3.98 for 180g's of chocolate vs £1.80 for 200g of Cadburys they are significantly more expensive.

Christmas is an expensive time. Many parents are pushed to the edge trying to provide a happy festive time for their children. Or one that looks like the TV version.

It is still the case that many people don't see beyond the cover price of the items on sale in our shops and supermarkets. Is it right to expect that they do?

Thanks for reading.


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About Me

Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Consultancy based in SE London.

Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.


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