Doubling down on love: Lacta’s brand story

The economic downturn that began in the late 2000s resonated globally, perhaps with no impact greater than was felt in Greece. Around 2007, the country’s debt percentage skyrocketed far out of proportion with the rest of the continent, a trend that continued into the 2010s. While many nations throughout Europe and the rest of the world endured economic hardships as a result of the crisis, Greece’s economy tanked. Understandably, the attitudes of its citizens didn’t go unchanged. The Greek population became disenfranchised.

To say the least, a crashing economy and a frustrated population don’t create the ideal environment to do business in. In situations filled with turmoil, even the most successful of brands have to be very careful with how they respond to changing times and attitudes. The last thing a brand wants to do in a powder-keg atmosphere is come off as patronizing in its messaging. Making matters more sticky is that, as in any high-pressure situation, the lines are very fine.

For generations of consumers in Greece, Lacta chocolate has been a symbol of love, thanks to consistent messaging centered around love stories. The economic downturn, however, presented an interesting chance for Lacta to reposition itself. Its target demographic, young people, was among those Greeks who had become frustrated by the crippling economy. Priorities were starting to shift; Greek youth started emphasizing the problems of economics over the joy of a relationship, an understandable trend given the troubling financial landscape. If Lacta’s past and future consumers were finding themselves less interested in love, a shift in the brand’s overall theme could be a reasonable step to take. Yet Lacta’s choices since 2009 show that by deciding not to deviate, a strong brand can not just remain so, but become more indomitable still—even in the midst of turbulent times. Thus, Lacta’s task became reintroducing love to a generation that had lost faith in it. Love, Lacta believes, is relevant and worthy of the investment of young Greeks, no matter the economic times. Over the years following the downturn, Lacta doubled down on one of the tried and true themes in storytelling: love.

In 2009, Lacta launched Love at First Site, to much acclaim. The interactive short film asked consumers to help tell and complete the love story between a Greek local and a British tourist. Lacta customers could unlock more possibilities by entering special codes found on the wrappers of Lacta bars.

The brand followed that up with Love in Action, a crowdsourced TV movie that used social media to engage with consumers. People shared their love stories—to provide inspiration for the film’s plot—and helped with casting. They even appeared in the film as extras. While the story ultimately kept with the theme of love, the way it was told was changed. No longer was Lacta creating the story and telling it. Rather, the people were doing the crafting and telling. In response to the feelings of disenfranchisement in their lives, Lacta gave consumers an opportunity to be a part of something larger.

Lacta continued to reinforce the idea of love in 2013, when it released a feature film in theaters called Love in the End. The film, which was released in Greek theatres on Valentine’s Day, told three different love narratives, which were based on crowdsourced ideas of people’s actual love tales they’d shared on Lacta’s Facebook page. For the lead up to the film’s release, the brand posted a 20-minute short film on to help create awareness. The film did brilliantly, enjoying the biggest opening night for a Greek film in the previous five years.

Earlier this year, Lacta launched an integrated campaign with a new television ad, based on the idea that love does, in fact, exist. The story focused on effort; relationships don’t work without it, but love is always something worth investing in. It all begins with taking that crucial first step. The campaign had a strong presence on social media, capitalizing on how young folks express themselves on a daily basis. Lacta asked people to post messages on various social channels, urging them to tell their story on how they took their first step towards finding love.

By urging users to tag their posts with the #LoveDoesExist hashtag, Lacta promised to take selected messages and use them as online banner ads, pre-roll on YouTube videos, and outdoor posters at bus stops throughout Athens. This campaign didn’t just exist to strengthen Lacta’s focus on stories of love. By allowing users to select the location of the bus stop for their message to appear, it subtly allowed Greeks to reconnect with their city and country. Quite literally, people could have their voices heard and broadcasted throughout the city.

Though it may seem counterintuitive, sometimes a strong way to reinforce a brand’s message is to directly challenge it. For years, Lacta had been telling the Greek population great love stories. But they were simply that; stories. In order to question its own notion of love and hope to in turn, make the brand even more relevant and successful, Lacta spearheaded the production of an hour-long documentary film which aired on Greek television. The film, titled Does Love Exist? follows around a Greek actor, famous for his roles in love stories, as he talks with and observes people from all walks of life to discover how love impacts their lives, and how important it is to them. A psychology professor analyzed young people’s hesitation to invest in love, offering his advice—namely, that by falling in love, one has the best chance to discover their true self and grow as a person. The film, which highlights a diverse set of singles, couples, and even those who have made a conscious choice to be alone, did wonderfully. Regardless of the film’s viewership and resulting sales (both of which were sizable), it succeeded by challenging its own established position.

Lacta has long had a very clear and successful brand platform, with its marketing communications focusing on the theme of love. The economic strife during the late 2000s brought about great disruption, and Lacta couldn’t have been blamed if it had decided to go with a different approach. Building around practicality—perhaps, the setting and achieving of goals—could have been a way for Lacta to align itself with changing attitudes. But the company had seen fruitful returns in the recent past, based on its strong brand story. It didn’t need to change, it needed only to strengthen. Lacta’s case is proof that a great story, like Lacta’s love stories, is a rock-solid foundation from which a brand can continuously build upwards, despite rapidly altered cultural times.

Did we pique your interest? Sit back and enjoy watching the full documentary below:

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