TCHO is a new, San Francisco-based chocolate company founded by former NASA software developer Timothy Childs — now “Chief Chocolate Officer” — and Wired co-founder Louis Rossetto. According to their website, TCHO is about bringing a depth of dark chocolate experience from “the pod to palate” by creating a “direct, transparent connection between the farmers and the consumers.” Beyond philosophy and values, the stuff just tastes incredible, judging by the numerous rave reviews posted on the website and across a range of blogs reporting on news both culinary and cutting-edge.
I was struck by TCHO’s community and social media approach to marketing and communications.
Borrowing from digital developmental processes and nomenclature, TCHO launches “beta” versions of their product, and then invites the community to provide feedback to help them perfect it. All the comments are posted for everyone to see. Although TCHO calls this their TCHO Beta Testing program, it feels much more familiar and intimate, like someone you know inviting you into the kitchen to try out their latest recipe and tell them what you think.
As far as promotion is concerned, TCHO seems to be leveraging the connections provided by online networks, rather than traditional advertising, which I suspect they hardly can afford at this point. They’ve sent product to food and confectionery bloggers, and were featured in a series of videos produced by boingboingtv. A blog on the website features posts from — as far as I can tell — TCHO management and employees, which provides a sense of the people behind TCHO and their passion for chocolate. I only wish they allowed comments to the blog to enable more direct dialog between TCHO and the wider chocolate-loving community. It’s also strange that the site refers to finding the right people to work for the company and “our” approach to chocolate making, but no where can you find a list of the principle players’ names, faces and profiles.
Currently, their sales and distribution appears to be strictly web-based, directly from manufacturer to end-consumer. Sadly, TCHO doesn’t yet ship to Europe. So for the time being, I’ll just have to sit here and drool.