20110919-104234.jpgWho in their right mind would try to sell any physical product on the web and not have a single picture of the product on their web site?

Who would have the nerve to sell a chocolate bar for $8 and require that you buy 10 of them at a minimum?

Meet the Mast Brothers the craziest chocolate makers… ever! OK, that’s probably a perspective issue. They probably aren’t the craziest chocolate makers ever, but when put into web marketing terms, these guys are certifiable. They break all the rules and yet they succeed beyond imagination. While they may seem like crazy chocolate makers whiling away their days elbow deep in chocolate, they are actually marketing geniuses that clearly understand the two most important rules of marketing/business in 2011 – be genuine and love what you do.

Seriously though folks, there is not one image I their site anywhere of the chocolate they sell. Even the page where they list the varieties of the chocolate and their names, not a single photo of chocolate. This is the story of how to make your site so compelling that it doesn’t matter, because the value and experience is clearly on display on the web site.

20110919-103804.jpgWe know when a company is real or not, don’t we? We buy plenty of products from companies that just plain suck, but in the end, it’s the Mast Brothers of the world that win our hearts, keep our loyalty, and evoke our passion enough to spread the word. They are a no compromise duo that believe in everything they do and treat their chocolate and their chocolate packaging like works of art, ….. because they are.

20110919-110250.jpgThey hand-craft the best chocolate in the world and even though you’ve never tasted it or even seen a picture of it, you know it’s true, because they are crystal clear about their values and their craft on their web site. The design is authentic, the content is real and the photos paint a picture of two men that have taken chocolate making out of the mass production plant and have brought it back to being a handmade art.

That’s not to say they aren’t savvy marketers. They know how to paint a picture and create an atmosphere and everything on their web site oozes their image. It’s old school – hand made, polished wood, canvas bags of hand-picked cocoa beans and workers pouring themselves into their craft. They’ve taken creating their own wrappers from unusual paper and turned into a stylish brand asset. These are smart marketers and storytellers, that also have the luxury of keeping it all simple, because their story is so powerful, that people tell it for them.

I envy their ability to simplify what they do and to keep their message succinct. What a luxury they’ve created for themselves. They’ve created a product that is compelling and as they work hard to create it, they’ve given themselves the gift of simplicity. Think about simplicity as you try to fashion your message everyday from all the complexity you’ve layered upon your message, your products, your brand, and company. sometimes just stepping back from everything and considering your product in the context of a chocolate bar, van help you step away from the cliff of complexity.

From the background image on their pages, to the images, font choices, and navigation, every detail fits their chosen image and all their communications. Whether intentional as in they have a set of standards that are required, or accidental their site reflects a quality that makes you want to shell out $8 for a bar of chocolate with a minimum purchase of 10.

Just like their chocolate, their web site starts with quality ingredients and they keep it simple. Their home page is a letter to the visitors of their site written in a simple courier font that evokes the simplicity of what they do and how they make their product. The subtly of their approach, means that people won’t notice as blatantly as we notice and detect marketing messages on other sites.

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Our handcrafted chocolate begins with the most prestigious cocoa farms. Not unlike wine making, variances in the geography of farms (terroir) create one-of-a-kind chocolate. We seek to pay tribute to these unique characteristics by crafting chocolate with beans from a single farm, village or province.

Craft chocolate depends on world-class execution. With artful roasting, careful winnowing, stone grinding, patient aging, and flawless tempering, truly one of a kind craft chocolate can be made – all done by simply using two ingredients, cacao and cane sugar. With craft this pure, there is no need to add any additional butter, oils, vanilla, soy, preservatives or emulsifiers.

Barely noticeable at the top of the primary pages of the site are simple quotes from press coverage that reenforce their image, their product value, and their company values. The incredibly small size actually causes them to be noticed, but convey’s an incredibly simplistic and humble image.

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The story of Mast Brothers Chocolate is one of family and one of craft. – New York Times

Brooklyn’s dark secret – Time Magazine

Best New American Chocolate – Food & Wine Magazine

20110920-060109.jpgOf course, it all starts with their logo and the standard busting top of their site that takes up a full third of the screen real estate. It’s a huge no-no to make the user scroll to get to your messaging, but once again it works. The logo is yet again a brilliantly simplistic design and tag line and it’s surrounded by what would in the world of print be known as white space, but here again they break the rules with a background image, that should be banned on any other site, but on this site, it fits perfectly. What would normally be painful to look at for extended periods of time actually draws the eye into the logo and leaves the visitor without any doubt about what Mast Brothers is about.

20110919-111112.jpgLet’s talk about that logo. Simple beautiful block font with a hand-drawn logo image and a sweet morsel of a tag line that says everything that they are – AMERICAN CRAFT CHOCOLATE.

The entire site tells a story of quality and values and their news and farm sections seal the deal with compelling coverage that further explains their progressive values and emphasizes their commitment to excellence and compassion.

I know it’s not simple to create what they’ve created from a marketing perspective, but focusing yourself on a core set of values and messaging for your products should be at the core of everything we do in all aspects of our business, if for no other reason, to give ourselves the pride of creating something that brings value to people backed by honesty. It comes through when you speak in person and on your web site.

20110919-111526.jpgAbandoned at the bottom of their site is everything I tell my web marketing clients should be prevalent and available on every part of their site – the newsletter and social media sharing links. There’s so much to like about this site, that you are compelled to learn more and eat up every morsel of luscious content, so you are willing to scroll beyond the content. It’s not too much, because it’s just enough and now I’m willing to pay $8 for a chocolate bar I’ve never seen(secret: I don’t even like dark chocolate, the only kind of chocolate they sell).