The best brand immersion days

The best brand immersion days start with a surprise; if you don’t start off by learning something about your brand that surprises you then it sounds like you’ve just been going over old ground. Going over old ground and going over your history are not the same thing at all and I’m going to show you why, by using the Terry’s Chocolate Orange as a case study.

The first surprise for most people is that the Terry’s Chocolate Orange was a spin-off from the original Terry’s Chocolate Apple. I can’t be sure exactly why the Chocolate Apple was discontinued (I’m looking into it), but I can take an educated guess: orange oil is easier to obtain than apple oil and flavouring the chocolate orange will have been more cost-effective than the chocolate apple. However, I’d argue that the flavour of this product is less important than the concept: the product wasn’t about the flavour variant, it was about the novelty of a toy made of chocolate. We’ll come onto that idea in a moment, but first let’s go through the basic elements you need for a really valuable brand immersion day.

Terry's Chocolate Apple
Reproduced from an original in the frankly epic Borthwick Institute, University of York: Terry’s Archive, illustrated product brochure, 1936

–Brand archaeology–

If you’re planning a brand immersion day the first thing you need is a brand archaeology document. If you can’t present this at the start of your brand immersion day then you should aim to create one with your colleagues as the focus of the day. This document will be worth its weight in gold if it’s done properly. However, beware of the potential pitfalls of doing this without a professional brand archivist; I inherited a brand archaeology document back in 2007 (no doubt put together by a well-meaning brand manager) that insisted Aero had been so named thanks to the vogue for jet travel back in the early 1930s. This myth persisted so stubbornly that it kept cropping up on websites all over the place and I would regularly receive letters from consumers pointing out that jet travel hadn’t been invented back then.

–Brand vs product–

Your brand archaeology needs to start with the creator of your brand and the reasons why it was created (and the creation of your product if the product was created first and branded later – KitKat is a good example of this because the bar had been around for two years before it got its brand identity). Understanding your brand’s back story can really change your perspective.

–Who created your brand?–

For the Terry’s Chocolate Orange we should be looking back briefly at the history of Terry’s and asking ourselves how the business compared to its competitors.

This is where the story gets interesting for me. I’ve lectured before about Terry’s unique approach to confectionery; back in the early twentieth century the Rowntrees saw confectionery as a common grocery product, Nestlé saw it as a luxury item, Mackintosh’s of Halifax treated it as cheap entertainment, but Terry’s saw it as a novelty. Understanding that unique approach to confectionery is the key to understanding the brand identity of the Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

Joseph Terry (founder of Terry’s) hadn’t started out as a confectioner, he’d been apprenticed as an apothecary. In his day (1793 – 1850) the two professions overlapped; apothecaries needed to learn to coat their bitter medicines in sugar, and his throat sweets would have been made using the same basic principle as a humbug. Joseph Terry may even have learnt the difficult art of cocoa making for medicinal purposes. But Terry didn’t stick to medicine; he branched out.

As well as incredibly ornate sugar sculptures for cake decoration (the large scale model of the York city walls was boss level, honestly you need to see it) Terry’s began making little sweets for the gentry, and they couldn’t be more hilarious.

Terry’s Conversation Pastilles were nothing like the Rowntree’s Fruit Pastilles; if you’re familiar with the Swizzles Mallow Love Hearts then just imagine something exactly like that, but four times the size so that you can fit more words on it. Terry’s Conversation Pastilles were little discs of pressed sugar with conversation starters on them like (and I’m not making this up) “Do you polka?”, “How do you flirt?”, and “I want a wife.”




Terry’s sold these confections (as the name suggests) to start conversations, but not necessarily to have a memorable flavour. Where 21st century confectionery is all about the taste, these sweets from Joseph Terry were all about the novelty. It’s likely that he was selling them to rich visitors to the city who would spend their evenings in the Assembly Rooms trying to make friends and looking for a way to start up conversation without the benefit of a formal introduction.

–Terry’s Chocolate Orange: a toy that you can eat–

Fast forward to the creation of the Chocolate Apple and Orange. Knowing as we do that Terry’s had been all about the novelty since their start it seems like the Chocolate Orange was always their destiny. If you haven’t tried one then you won’t know that the chocolate orange is basically a toy orange which is made out of orange flavoured chocolate. It’s not merely orange-shaped on the outside, but is also moulded into individual orange segment shapes on the inside. These are held together by a chocolate orange pith in the centre, and it’s necessary to tap the orange hard on its base (against a table is best) to break it open and splay the orange segments.

Terry's Chocolate Orange
Reproduced from an original in the Borthwick Institute, University of York: Terry’s Archive, illustrated product brochure, 1936

Once you realise that the whole purpose of the chocolate orange was, from the start, the novelty factor, it begs the question: what have Mondelez been buggering about with so many flavour variants for†? Yes, I’ll concede that the chocolate orange was a flavour variant itself (we’ve not forgotten that original chocolate apple), and I know that it’s tempting to excitement with a myriad of flavour variants in the hope that you got upon that magical variant that will become the bestseller; but should it be at the expense of the core USP? The one element that no one can take from the brand is that novelty factor; the toy made of chocolate. The million dollar question for this brand’s immersion day should be: how do we make sure that we’re really capitalising on that? And I have the answer, but that’s for another blog.


†Alright, some of them are pretty cool, I’ll admit that I am a sucker for a flavour variant; especially if it’s green tea flavour.

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