Rom Chocolate Brand

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During the communism years, mostly during Nicolae Ceausescu’s “reign”, when basic products (food) were rationed and the other products were exported for economical growth, Kandia SA created the ROM chocolate bar. More exactly, ROM is a chocolate bar filled with rum cream, a unique product created for the local, Romanian market, first created in 1964. The brand, from the begining, was succesful, because of the lack of choices and, of course, the restrictions which were applied by the communist government.

At that time, ROM was a delight for everyone, and all the Romanians, from children to old people, knew the brand and identified with it, because they had to. Therefore, the product now reminds Romanians of their childhood, actually linking generations. Since ROM was created in Romania, for Romanians, it’s valid to say that the product brings out the patriotism from people. Other than the name (ROM – from Romania, and also “rom” meaning rum), the nationalist spirit which comes with this chocolate bar is also, represented by its packaging, being wrapped in the romanian flag, with a simple format of the name. see fig. 1) fig. 1 Over the years, because the product started losing ground, ROM made some changes regarding the product, launching brand extensions, made the packaging more shinny and came up with good brand strategies in order to increase the popularity of the product once again. I chose this brand because, even though created by communists, capitalists can still make it shine and include it among people’s preferences. In my opinion, it’s not just about the taste, but the feeling that you’re eating something authentic, which has kept its tradition since 1964.

So you can call me patriotic, but I do believe in the values that this brand represents. A recent campaign which is still running, is a social one, where the brand ROM can be seen as an „ambassador” of Romania, in which customers get to be involved in the process of improving Romanian’s image on the internet. Basically, the mission is to change the suggestions on www. google. com into something positive about Romanian people.

Therefore, the customers are impelled to start searching, using that search engine, adjectives that best describe a Romanian, in as many different languages they can, such as: „romanii sunt destepti”, „Romanians are smart”, „les roumains sont intelligents” and so on. All this campaign is strenghtened by the slogan, which is „Buy ROM and sweeten the image of Romanians”. Thus, by buying the ROM chocolate bar, customers can, also, win t-shirts with positive Romanian messages and will be involved in changing the opinion of foreigners regarding them, in every country.

At this point, as a result of the campaign mentioned above, this brand can be seen, according to Goodyear’s (1996) model, at stage 61. Therefore, through this marketing strategy, other than growing the sales of the chocolate bar, customers take part of changing a social/political view, turning the brand into a „brand as a policy”. Looking at the history of the brand, and the preference for the brand usually amongst grown-ups and people who lived during the communist period, it can be said that, for them, the purchase decision is based on a high level of involvement.

That is because they are using their working memory in order to manipulate ideas and relate them to other concepts they have learned and understood2 So, customers over 22 years old base their decision on information gathered in the past, which triggers their patriotism, reminiscing about their childhood and about how the chocolate bar was a product they couldn’t have anytime they wanted to, plus the fact that it’s a high quality product (since during the communism years, Romanian products were seen as high quality products and the ROM chocolate bar is seen as a reference standard).

All these aspects are linked within that certain segment of people, allowing them to make a purchase decision, decision based on an affective involvement, rather than a cognitive one3. The brand is being purchased, also, by young people, who are buying the chocolate bar because it is inexpensive, within its product category, and it tastes good. Considering that, they are making the purchase on a low involvement level, since the product doesn’t have any kind of meaning for them, being just a low-priced chocolate bar with rum cream filling, which has the Romanian flag on it.

Nowadays, due to the new ROM campaign, the level of involvement is changing , increasing amongst the young market segment. That’s happening because customers are actively participating in this campaign, which promotes the positive aspects of Romanians around the world. Therefore, the involvement is being modified by changing the reason for which some people buy the chocolate bar, actually by making them relate to ROM. Overall, the new ROM campaign now focuses on „inviting” consumers to buy the product and stand up for what they are and believe in, campaign which seems to be successful, since, according to www. romaniisuntdestepti. ro, 637. 37 Romanians were involved in it so far. Looking further at ROM, the strength of the brand equity can be acknowledged for a certain segment. So, the ROM brand represents Romanian quality, history and a gate towards social groups (nationalists). That is the brand equity created from the begining, which creates awareness. It does not create awareness for everyone, though, and that is why new strategies are being used, in order to associate the brand with the image of a proud Romanian, a person who has the power to change something and who enjoys the little pleasures of life, in this case chocolate, more exactly, the ROM chocolate bar.

An interesting fact is that the product is still being produced on the same recipe, since 1964, having a neverchanging taste and by being known by the adjectives „authentic Romanian”. Taking that into consideration, other than having a strong brand equity on a certain target market, the company had to make some changes. Therefore, in order to atract and keep the customers, it started focusing on customer equity and adjusted to the consumers’ needs4. As a result, there were extensions attached to the brand, variations of size and shape for the product, with the same taste.

In order to promote the product, the company adopted mostly symbolic brand strategies. Therefore, the commercial ads for ROM reflected the past, the life which was in the past, during the communist regim, including the phrases which were used at that time. Actually, all the ads started with a person (living in the present) taking a bite from the chocolate bar, which generated instanteneously actions and characters from the past, reminding the consumer about those times in a burlesque manner. The commercials included, at the end, the slogan of ROM, which is “Romanian Strong Sensations since 1964”.

Of course, for the young segment of Romanians, the images didn’t mean that much, taking into consideration that they didn’t experience the communism years, ROM didn’t bring any nostalgia to them. Thus, the ads didn’t seem to be that succesful, though, until recently, when ROM had a very bold brand strategy. The new strategy consisted of launching the product wrapped in an American flag, thus changing the packaging (see fig. 2). fig. 2 So, instead of the Romanian flag, the new ROM had the American flag, taking away all the national pride of Romanians, borrowing the values of the „American dream”.

This change was illustrated with the help of a commercial, in which a man with an american accent presented the new wrapper of the chocolate bar mentioning that the change „is for you, so you can eat it everywhere in the world and feel proud”. Also, the new product was launched in supermarkets. This created hysteria amongst Romanians, because, with this change, their authentic Romanian product was taken away from them, along with their pride, distancing them from their heritage. Also, the change was taken as a personal offence because in a subtle way the commercial stated that Romanians are not good enough to have a Romanian chocolate bar.

Still, the customers were given a facebook page and also the new site for this product, in order for them to express their opinion regarding this change. And so they did. With the help of Youtube, Facebook and the brand’s website, thousands of people expressed their dissagreement regarding the new packaging, actions which led to a flashmob with the message „we want ROM back”. The results of this campaign, which was able to create a fuss and mobilization among Romanians, were: In the first two weeks, the campaign reached 67% of Romanians ; Generated 300,000 Euros worth of free media;

In the first six days alone, Rom increased its Facebook page fan total by 300%; Rom ousted the previous chocolate bar leader to become Romania’s most popular chocolate bar (a 79% increase); Outperformed the market by 20% in the most relevant channels; The “American” version of Rom completely sold out5. After 7 days of the „new ROM”, it was revealed to the media that the old ROM was back, making every Romanian happy. Looking at this campaign, it can be said that it was a symbolic brand strategy, as the brand needed to create awareness.

And, according to the numbers mentioned above, it did succeed, by awakening the „dormant patriotism” of people. The targeted market was the young market segment, along with the nostalgic Romanians, thus exploating the connections which the brand had already built and taking the advertising far from the communist parodies which they had before. So, by using the emotional attributes which contribute to the strong brand equity of the brand, ROM was able to challenge young people’s national ego, developing into a wish of bringing back the Romanian national symbol.

This strategy, based more on emotions, rather than functional utilities has been going for a lot of time. If the communist period is to be considered and the fact that Romanians didn’t quite have a choice when it came to buying products at that time, one can also assume that the brand was created on symbolic values. Of course, with market changes, people start having choices and the company adapted their strategy to best fit the targeted market. At this point, ROM is part of Kandia’s Dulce portfolio. Within this portfolio there are 4 other brands. Taking in regards that there is a joint contract pending, the portfolio will expand.

The company is, mostly, based on a branded structure: sub-brands are very much separated from the corporate brand and each brand has its own name and visual identity6. Also, according to an article7 , I can say that ROM is based on a house of brands strategy, meaning that the product itself represents the primary brand rather than the company. When you look at the history of the brand, it is easy to see why it was based on that certain strategy. The plan of action was built upon the idea of “unique” and “native born”, a uniqueness which can only be associated with one brand, otherwise it could have created confusion.

As technology is becoming more and more advanced and competition is increasing, the market needs are also changing. Taking that into consideration, ROM has launched, over the years, brand extensions. The extensions of the brand consist in changing, either the size of the chocolate bar or, more recently, the shape. Now, part of ROM, the following products are available: – ROM cel Mare (English: the big one) – with a bigger size and weight; – ROM cel Dublu (English: the double sized) – 2 x ROM = double ROM; – ROM tableta (English: tablet) – changing it’s shape from bar to tablet. Why?

According to studies provided by Nielsen Romania, the chocolate market is represented by tablets in a proportion of aproximately 70%. By knowing that consumers are likely to buy tablets more than bars, ROM decided to launch this tablet, so it will ensure economical profit and awareness. What do they all have in common? The taste and the same wrapper. They were launched to best fit the customer’s personality following the consumers’ behavior, to reduce costs and to attain financial gain. Many authors have different views towards brand extensions and their ability to be successful.

For example, Kwon Jung, Leslie Tey, (2010)8 stated in their article that similarity between parent brand and extension category is necessary for successful extensions. Therefore, they say that the simmilitude guarantees customers a positive influence created by the parent brand. Other authors, such as Loken, Barbara; Roedder John, Deborah (1993)9 talk about diluting brand beliefs in regards to attributes for a certain category. All in all, considering the fact that ROM has been produced using the same ingredients and recipe since the begining, makes it difficult for it to extend to a totally different product.

I believe that, knowing that information, there is no need to talk about diluting beliefs, since the important characteristics are still the same. I am referring to the taste, the packaging representing the flag of Romania and the name of the brand ROM – the elements creating salience for this traditional brand. There are many things to consider when creating a brand extension, as it is when creating new products. The extension has the advantage of credibility (transmitted from the parent brand), and a slight recognition, also coming from the parent brand, but it still needs other components in order to be profitable.

Many authors said that a product should be feasible. Also, it should be able to stand for the same values. In that case, a feasible product for this brand would be represented by chocolate candies. That way, the chocolate candies will follow the same recipe, having the same taste. Also, the packaging should remain the same so it will still evoke the trditional ROM chocolate. In my opinion, it would represent a risk for ROM to change the taste of its product, which might lead to decreased credibility and sales.

Taking into account that customers are involved in ROM’s campaigns, there can be created a board for an open discussion in which buyers can state their opinion regarding upcoming extensions. Or a poll with future options to see what is their reaction towards “new”. There are many articles about chocolate on the internet10, where one can learn about the positive aspects of chocolate, primarily dark chocolate. In regards of people, nowadays, tending to become more health conscious, creating ROM chocolate bar using dark chocolate might be taking into account, thus extending the brand.

This might be tricky, though, because the taste of the chocolate bar will not be the same and it might represent an inconvenient. But, then again, there are different people with different tastes which will embrace an innovative idea and the new extension. The new chocolate bar will still be “authentic Romanian”, with the same rum cream, but a little more bitter. Another possibility would be an ice cream, not on a stick though because it was already created by Unilever in partnership with Cadbury which owned for a while the ROM brand. That way, the taste will remain the same, but more refreshing.

Of course, these can be options of expanding the brand’s portfolio, but in order to make any decision a market strategy must be followed and research must be done. Because of its product category, the brand is to be consumed by everyone, no matter the age or the gender. Still, due to the fact that it is chocolate, many might say women tend to eat more chocolate than men. There have been lots of studies regarding chocolate consumption and its consequences for womens` health, most of them having positive results11. Actually, if there is to call out a single ingredient responsible for the positive results, it would be cocoa.

Cocoa, as mentioned on www. wikipedia. com, has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain which contributes to important bodily functions. Altough chocolate is mostly eaten by women (according to studies), men also consume it. Taking the ROM chocolate bar, as an example and looking at the main ingredients, it must be said that it has a rum cream filling. Making simple connections such as men drink more alcohol than women and rum is considered to be alcohol, a valid assumption would be that a chocolate bar with rum cream filling will be appealing to men.

On the other side, if the chocolate bar is seen from the cocoa ingredient, it would be more appealing to women. These are assumptions made on simple connections or by viewing the results of different studies. Of course, everyone has different tastes, they are more or less involved and there are many factors to consider when stating if the gender plays a major role or not. Due to lack of data regarding consumption of ROM chocolate bar differenciated by gender, I am not able to make a clear statement regarding the gender role. All in all, the brand can still expand and it remains to be seen what will the next step be.

Along with a good strategy, ROM will still be able to atract more customers and be a part of Romanians life. References: McEnally, Martha R. ; Chernatony, L. de (1999): The evolving nature of branding: consumer and managerial considerations, Academy of Marketing Science Review[Online] 99 (02); Heath, Robert (2001) Low involvement processing – a new model of brand communication, Journal of Marketing Communications, 7 (1), 27 – 33; C. W. Park, S. M. Young ,Consumer Response to Television Commercials, the Impact of Involvement and Background, Music on Brand Attitude Formation, Journal of Marketing Research, 1986, 23,1 p. 1-21; Rust, R. T. , Zeithaml, V. A. , Lemon, K. N. (2004), Customer-centered brand management, Harvard Business Review, (82), 9, 110-118; http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=Tt9NBtW4sbA&feature=player_embedded – Youtube video; Dooley, G. , Bowie, D. (2005) Place brand architecture: strategic management of the brand portfolio, Place Branding, 1 (4), 402-419; http://www. brandmatters. com. au/branded-house-or-a-house-of-brands/ ; Kwon Jung, Leslie Tey, (2010) Searching for boundary conditions for successful brand extensions”, Journal of Product & Brand Management, 19 (4), 276 – 285;

Loken, Barbara; Roedder John, Deborah (1993), Diluting Brand Beliefs: When Do Brand Extensions Have a Negative Impact? Journal of Marketing, 57 (3), 71-84; http://www. allchocolate. com/health/basics/ ; http://yourlife. usatoday. com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2011-10-10/Study-Chocolate-may-cut-womens-stroke-risk/50722996/1 ; www. wikipedia. com. 1McEnally, Martha R. ; Chernatony, L. de (1999): The evolving nature of branding: consumer and managerial considerations, Academy of Marketing Science Review[Online] 99 (02) 2Heath, Robert (2001) Low involvement processing – a new model of brand communication, Journal of

Marketing Communications, 7 (1), 27 – 33; 3 C. W. Park, S. M. Young ,Consumer Response to Television Commercials, the Impact of Involvement and Background, Music on Brand Attitude Formation, Journal of Marketing Research, 1986, 23,1 p. 11-21. 4Rust, R. T. , Zeithaml, V. A. , Lemon, K. N. (2004), Customer-centered brand management, Harvard Business Review, (82), 9, 110-118. 5http://www. youtube. com/watch? v=Tt9NBtW4sbA&feature=player_embedded – Youtube video 6Dooley, G. , Bowie, D. (2005) Place brand architecture: strategic management of the brand portfolio, Place Branding, 1 (4), 402-419 7 http://www. randmatters. com. au/branded-house-or-a-house-of-brands/ 8Kwon Jung, Leslie Tey, (2010) Searching for boundary conditions for successful brand extensions”, Journal of Product & Brand Management, 19 (4), 276 – 285; 9Loken, Barbara; Roedder John, Deborah (1993), Diluting Brand Beliefs: When Do Brand Extensions Have a Negative Impact? Journal of Marketing, 57 (3), 71-84; 10 http://www. allchocolate. com/health/basics/ . 11 http://yourlife. usatoday. com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2011-10-10/Study-Chocolate-may-cut-womens-stroke-risk/50722996/1 .

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