Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Fling: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut
Someday I may write a long(er) article about public relations, marketing and product launches. I have a few case studies. Well, not really case studies, perhaps they’re just essays where I make fun of PR. Mars’ new Fling would probably be at the top of the list.
(If you just want a review of the candy, skip down to the photos of the actual candy bars out of the package, because I’m gonna go on here for a while with liberal use of parentheticals.)
The Ranting about Marketing & Press Spin
Fling is a new candy bar being test marketed in Los Angeles. The tag line is naughty but not that naughty (tm).
It’s geared towards women, and even more specifically towards women with food issues.
But it’s packaged like tampons (the individual fingers sold in stand up boxes moreso), so maybe it gives women who are embarrassed to be seen with a chocolate bar a more discreet package to disguise it. (If I were a child or man searching through someone’s handbag for a snack, I’d certainly think at first glance that this was some sort of feminine hygiene product and not a sweet consumable.)
The press release that accompanied my single sample (yes, I requested samples since I hadn’t seen it in Los Angeles, yet and I was overnighted a huge box with a too-small tee-shirt, press release and one package of the milk chocolate ... no samples of the other flavors, which is pretty much what I do here, eat all the flavors and then provide oodles of description & photos) is filled with fascinating stuff that defies logic:
There was no accompanying Venn diagram to show me what the overlap of that was. Is that 75% that enjoy passionate kissing a subset of the 77% of all women that enjoy chocolate? (The footnotes did provide me with the information that these surveys were conducted in Los Angeles and San Francisco, so perhaps this is only the leanings of 500 California urban women who were willing to talk about items so personal?)
The only fact contained in the release that I think will be of interest to retailers is that “California women claim they are less likely to give up chocolate and splurging on clothes than other indulgent flings, such as drinking gourmet coffee, having girls’ night out and spa treatments.” So with the current economic situation, this product will thrive. I have to say, I am not these women! (I don’t drink gourmet coffee, I don’t have girls’ night out, spa treatments or splurge on clothes ... really the only thing that I fling my money at is chocolate.)
The other threats contained in the press release include a marketing campaign that will include innuendo-laden headlines. (Just when I was starting to recover from the Herbal Essence commercials - as long as they don’t become the GoDaddy of candy.) Oh, I could go on and on about the things that I found insulting about the press release. But hey, consumers don’t get to read it.
There’s a companion website as well, which actually contains information about what the product actually is (there is an accompanying fact sheet that does have some additional scant info with more marketing-speak).
The marketing mentions that these are 85 calorie treats, but they’re sold in packages that are pairs. So each package, each serving size is 170 calories. They come in three flavor varieties: Milk Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut.
The Actual Candy Review
The Fling Milk Chocolate is meringue plank with a layer of chocolate cream covered in milk chocolate. The milk chocolate has an iridescent/pearly finish to it.
The marketing calls this premium chocolate, yet careful reading of the ingredients reveals that it has PGPR in it. Odd.
The fingers are rather like a Twix bar, about 4.25” long in a mostly half-round log. There are little squiggles that distinguish it from the Hazelnut variety.
They smell sweet and a little milky. The bite is quite nice. The meringue is crispy and has a very distinct crunch. It’s a very smooth meringue, not like a honeycomb. The vaguely sweet and toasted meringue is set off by the truffle cream, which is silky smooth and a little salty. The milk chocolate coating is a bit milkier than the rest of the bar and gives it a little malty punch and pulls it all together.
It’s a rather nice bar, wonderful blend of textures and delicate flavors. A bit on the sweet side for me when eaten alone, but with some strong tea or a cup of coffee, it’s a good break.
The Fling Dark Chocolate is meringue plank with a layer of chocolate cream covered in dark chocolate (which contains milk, milkfat and lactose) but no PGPR.
The iridescent coating on this was more noticeable and frankly, more disturbing to me. What is that stuff? Eyeshadow? Crushed gemstones? Powdered mussel shells?
The smell of this bar reminded me a lot of Dove Dark Chocolate. It has a woodsy and slightly acidic/milky scent to it.
Again, the snap of the bar was really refreshing. It releases a little waft of toasted marshmallow flavor from the meringue. The darker chocolate gives it a dry finish and a bitter bite towards the end, leaving me feeling a bit more satisfied.
The Fling Hazelnut is the same meringue plank with a layer of hazelnut-flavored chocolate cream covered in milk chocolate. (The zig zags are doubled on these.)
I thought this one was the most innovative. Hazelnut isn’t a common flavor in the United States for candy found in single packs at grocery & drug store checkouts, so they’ve found a unique selling proposition right there.
The bar smells like a flavored mocha drink. Sweet, with a toasted nut scent like hazelnut “flavor.”
The crisp bite still pleases me in this version, but the overly fake hazelnut flavor doesn’t do much for me. I would have preferred an actual giaunduia instead of the truffle cream, but I recognize that the coffee drink culture owns this hazelnut flavor thing.
There are a lot of things to like here. It’s a completely new style of bar, they’re really well made. The attention to detail is great (even the imprinting on the bottom of the bar is little flowers & swirlies like the package design).
I think the use of meringue, the mix of textures and the finger format is excellent - perfectly proportioned. It was crisp, it was creamy and overall, two bars was satisfying. The dark chocolate was my favorite of the three, but all were definitely good and different enough that I can see people having favorites.
The calories controls stuff is a little disingenuous (as most stuff regarding dieting and portion control is). The packages only hold 1.11 ounces. The caloric density is actually higher than most other candy bars on the market at 153 calories per ounce ... just a smaller portion. Twix, which is their own product and perhaps the target audience for this is only 140 calories per ounce, 3Musketeers is about 125, KitKat is about 150. The big difference here is that it doesn’t look small. (I think this was a similar hurdle with the 3 Musketeers Mint.)
To bring this back to my earlier assessment of the marketing and positioning of the product, I think it’s a huge error to launch this as its own product line. I think it should be part of the Dove products, which are already about indulgence (and strike me as less likely to alienate men) and have a recognizable package & logo design.
The other striking thing is that Fling is not new to planet Earth. It’s been around in Australia for two years. (Candy Addict had a review of it on its launch.) The packaging there was less feminine (no pink) and though still aimed at women it had a quirky campaign that used the tagline, forever is overrated. Here’s an animated commercial. (Thanks Sera!)
POSTED BY Cybele AT 9:51 am
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.