Everyone loves chocolate – or do they? Assumptions in your social marketing can lead you astray, so deep social listening is key to gathering an accurate consumer view of your brand. To illustrate this point, we took a look at the most-loved global chocolate brands for our latest NetBase Brand Passion Report: Chocolate & Candy Bars

For a two-year period we analyzed over 150 million English-language social conversations, at both the industry and brand levels, across more than 80 countries. The results were sweet and surprising.

It’s not just about bars

The first surprise for many brands who might assume they’d be leading the pack is the fact that social conversations about chocolate don’t just stop with bars or solid forms. In fact, three of the top four spots in our list of the top 30 brands belong to a cookie, a cream, and a beverage, with cereals and gifts among the brands in the second half of the list. As chocolate brands are keeping an eye on their competitors, they clearly should be thinking pretty broadly. Wonder if they are?

Cocoa conversations

Conversational drivers around chocolate are more diverse than brands may expect as well. Recipes and emerging flavor trends might be predictable, and celebrities sharing their love of chocolate are sure to drive sales too. Less predictable though, is the @justchocolates Twitter account, which drives a lot of the conversation, as does the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

A particular opportunity for marketers is that consumers talk about WANTING chocolate more than NEEDING it or EATING it. Time your offers well and the chocolate they’ll crave will be yours.

Buzzy, chocolaty goodness

The most buzzed-about brands comprise 12 global brands and three retailers in the top 15. In the top two spots? Oreo was #1 two years in a row, with Nutella at #2. Meanwhile, the biggest increase over the two-year span was seen by Etsy Chocolate Gifts and Cornetto Ice Cream. Would a major chocolate brand think to worry about Etsy? Probably not – but they should!

More reasons not to assume a thing

Taking a deeper look at eight popular chocolate brands was eye-opening as well. Which site was the top chocolate forum? Reddit! Also high in the mix were parenting site forums – meaning expectant mom cravings are another opportunity at marketers’ disposal.

We also looked at five dimensions, or attributes, which offered surprises from brand to brand. Hint: If you’re a cereal brand, perhaps you wouldn’t consider a chocolate bar to be “breakfast” competition. But you’d be wrong, yet again!

The passion connection

All roads lead to this: Brands need to look at factors beyond the obvious to know where to focus their efforts on social and not be blindsided by unexpected competitors.

Likewise, assumptions about audience, what they’re saying, and where they’re saying it is a dangerous game.

Knowing that people are talking about your brand is never enough. How people feel (what we measure as Net Sentiment), and how strong they feel it (Brand Passion) can tell brands so much more. Emotional connection to a brand even trumps price concerns – is there a stronger argument for connecting?

Even when a brand’s sentiment and passion are high there is room to deepen the connection with consumers and keep that love burning strong. And when passion or sentiment drops, brands need to react quickly to keep from sliding too far south. The only way for brands to know what to do and when is to listen deeply on social, and respond to those consumer emotions.

When they do that, consumer love is icing on the cake. Chocolate icing, of course.

Download the NetBase Brand Passion Report: Chocolate & Candy Bars for additional insight to inform your marketing of chocolate, candy and beyond!

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