In an earlier post, I mentioned that some designers avoided using the colour purple, and how Milka embraced it as a signature brand trait. Today, I am going to tell the story of another chocolate champion – Toblerone – and about another signature brand trait – the product shape.
People crave exciting narratives as much as chocolate, if not more. And if the stories around our objects of desire are not mouthwatering enough, we tend to invent better ones. Toblerone’s iconic triangular shape is so distinctive that has generated various theories about its origin.
One very common hypothesis is that the shape is a stylized version of the famous Matterhorn mountain peak, which is also depicted on Toblerone’s packaging. (The image of a bear, Toblerone’s hometown of Bern symbol, is hidden within the mountain.)
However, the company’s website states that the chocolate’s design was inspired by a pyramidal figure of dancers at the Folies Bergères in Paris. According to this story, the founder’s son was so impressed with the show that he shaped his product after what he saw. This sounds a lot like marketing in hindsight to me, though.
Maybe the most imaginative theory is about “dragon’s teeth:” The story goes that the origin of Toblerone’s shape is connected to World War II and the anti-tank emplacements common in Switzerland at the time. These concrete wedges known as “dragon's teeth” were placed in border areas to protect Switzerland from a possible Nazi invasion. According to this theory, the chocolate bar’s shape is much more meaningful, symbolizing powerful guardians of freedom. However, Toblerone trademarked its triangular shape in 1909, well before WWII and even before the first modern tanks were in operational use. In fact, the dragon’s teeth in Switzerland are colloquially known as the Toblerone lines because they resemble the shape of the chocolate bar, not the other way around.