Profile in Leadership
A Brand for All Seasons
Jim Goldman, MBA ’85, President and CEO , Godiva Chocolatier
Like many successful leaders, Jim Goldman thinks
outside the box. For the aptly-named Goldman, the
box in question is a 14-carat icon — Godiva Chocolatier’s
As one of the world’s best-known packages, that box confers
a strong advantage, says Goldman, president and chief executive
officer of New York-based Godiva. But it’s also a gilded cage.
“We are saddled a bit with the consumer perception that Godiva is only for special occasions — great for Valentine’s Day and maybe for Christmas, but too expensive, too luxurious for more regular consumption,” Goldman says. That perception, he adds, needs to change.
These days, Godiva is breaking out of the golden box in a big way, seeking to connect with consumers in many more places and on many more occasions. “Godiva needs to be relevant 12 months a year,” Goldman says.
The push to make Godiva a brand for all seasons goes back at least to 2004, when the Campbell Soup Company named Goldman president of its Godiva business unit. “Jim improved our competitiveness. He created a whole bevy of innovations that found their way into the Godiva stores,” says Campbell’s CEO Doug Conant. Theatrical touches — employees dipping strawberries in chocolate or whipping up frozen “Chocolixer” drinks — drew customers into Godiva boutiques and kept them coming back to see what the store would serve up next.
But opportunities to transform the brand really took off in 2008, when Campbell sold Godiva to Yildiz Holding, parent of the Ülker Group, a privately-held Turkish food manufacturer.
The new parent’s chairman, Murat Ülker, is a savvy businessman and a visionary leader, Goldman says. “He has a much longer perspective on things, not quarter-to-quarter.” Campbell gave Godiva strong support, he says, but a publicly traded firm must consider its shareholders first. “As a Fortune 500 company, Campbell could not afford to take the risks and make the investments that we’re making now to realize our full potential.”
With Ülker’s backing, Goldman and his team are going all out to put both traditional Godiva treats and a growing assortment of new products — from ice cream parlor truffles to dipped Oreo cookies to individually wrapped Godiva “Gems” — into more and more customers’ mouths. “Over the past two years, we have ramped up our innovation game to almost a dizzying level of activity,” he says.
Taking on the White Space
Godiva has room to grow because the brand has plenty of what Goldman calls “white space” — market opportunities it hasn’t seized in the past. Especially during a recession, he says, a maker of premium chocolate needs to serve chocolate aficionados wherever they may be.
To fill in that white space, Goldman and his executive team are pursuing three main strategies: expanding into new countries, introducing new products, and selling through new channels.
Already well-established in North America and Japan, Godiva recently arrived in China, with plans for ten boutiques in four cities by 2011. In October, it opened the world’s largest Godiva store — a boutique-plus-café — in Shanghai. Godiva debuted this summer in Istanbul, Ülker Group’s headquarters city, and it’s expanding in Australia. The company is eyeing South Korea and aims to develop a stronger presence in the Middle East, Goldman says
With its second strategy, Godiva is encouraging consumers to reach for its products on a much broader variety of occasions. That means expanding the popular notion of Godiva chocolate as a gift.
“Godiva is great for that emotional, special gift for Valentine’s Day, but maybe a little bit over the top for giving to the person who took care of your dog over the weekend,” Goldman says. That’s the traditional view. But Godiva’s new gift baskets, baked goods or holiday treats might be just the ticket for a dog-sitting neighbor.
Godiva also has devised products for people who want to buy treats for themselves or to share with co-workers or friends. “Godiva isn’t well developed in those usage occasions, and yet they’re huge year-round,” Goldman observes. That category includes a line of chocolate tablet bars and the Godiva Gems, which sell in four-ounce bags for $4.99.
To market products for anytime consumption, Goldman and his team have decided they can’t rely solely on Godiva’s traditional retail venues — department stores and Godiva boutiques. So strategy number three calls for broadening distribution. In 2009, Godiva started selling chocolate bars and Gems in pharmacies and grocery stores in the U.S.
It was a controversial decision. “It’s the one that I think we, as an organization, grappled with the hardest,” Goldman says. But given the presence that premium chocolates have gained on grocery and drugstore shelves, Godiva couldn’t afford to hold itself aloof.
Research showed that customers in the U.S. appreciated the chance to buy more impulse-oriented products from Godiva in a broader range of outlets, Goldman says. While responding to those customers, the company also continues to cook up fresh, innovative, and customized products for sale in its own retail stores, he adds.