Would you pay $200 for a bar of chocolate? Today we meet James Le Compte, an Australian living in Ecuador and CEO of the luxury To’ak Chocolate brand.
To’ak started in Ecuador back in 2014, coming out of a rainforest conservation project that James was involved in at the time. While working in an area of pristine and incredibly diverse rainforest wilderness, James and his team came across an abandoned cacao plantation, which included a few trees of the legendary “Nacional’ variety—a rare and coveted strain of cacao that was long thought to be extinct.
Quickly understanding the opportunities provided with the discovery of a rare and storied variety, James and his colleagues began to harvest this precious raw material and create a luxury product—premium chocolate with a fascinating story behind it. In this episode, James will discuss how they communicate their story online, all the way through the unboxing experience.
This kind of chocolate is a world away from the mass-produced, sugary, milky chocolate from the corner store. To’ak’s target audience is a curious, conscious consumer who enjoys exploring the innovations of a traditional product like chocolate. With a vast range of flavor profiles, barrel aging, and a tasting culture more akin to fine wine, high-end chocolate has taken on a new level of sophistication—appealing to the experience-seeking customer or those looking for interesting gifts.
But marketing luxury products isn’t always easy. After all, it’s about more than just marketing, it’s about creating a personal connection with the customer—something many retailers struggle with. James discusses how he finds ways to converse with customers online and utilize social proof to tell their story and influence customers.
Finally, as a company whose products are found in stores around the globe, James sheds light on how COVID-19 impacted their business model and what changes they had to make.
“The beauty of having an ecommerce-driven brand is that you can dream big in terms of your target audience. This is especially important for a luxury brand like us.”
Main discussion points
- James tells us how a design-driven, visual identity is key in catching attention—To’ak’s flagship products, called origin bars, retail at $200 a unit and come in a beautifully-handcrafted wooden box and a 60-page booklet about the history of cacao in Ecuador.
- The importance of storytelling for the brand—James is curious to find ways to converse with customers online without being pushy or intrusive—online retail is seen as a more transactional medium. This lack of dialogue between retailers and customers presents a challenge for a personal, story-based brand.
- With traditional sales to physical retail stores having dried up completely due to COVID-19, James tells us how this has forced the company to reevaluate its business model by focusing on digital—for example, using reviews on Trustpilot to showcase social proof on their website.
- Picking up on a trend of consumers wanting to know where their product comes from, James started a data supply chain sideline called Orijin. Orijin traces the supply chain of food products from farm to product, adding value to the storytelling aspect and providing transparency on the ethical standards of business.
Though chocolate is meant to be enjoyed melting on your tongue, this story is meant to be enjoyed with your ears.