I really like chocolate, so many days after lunch, I’ll stop by our local Lindt store and pick up a few pieces of chocolate for a sweet bite in the afternoon. But there’s one thing that drives me crazy about Lindt… for years, they really didn’t offer much besides chocolate bars and their truffles.
When you bought a mixed bag of their truffles, you always knew what you were getting by the wrapper. Brown are hazelnut, orange are peanut butter, red are milk chocolate and blue are dark chocolate. For years, Lindt quietly and unconsciously trained us to associate certain colors with certain flavors. Then, they introduced new lines of chocolate.
Suddenly you could buy small, individually wrapped chocolate squares, crisp caramel clusters, coffee flavored chocolates, tiny little chocolates that played on famous desserts like creme brulee and more. They also introduced marzipan chocolates – one with a milk chocolate shell and the other with a dark chocolate shell.
Can you guess what color the milk chocolate marzipan candy was? You’d think it ought to be red, right? Well, no, it’s blue. Why? Who knows. And the dark chocolate one? Obviously, it’s red. Years and years of training people that red = milk and blue = dark, and then you introduce a new chocolate where the only difference is the type of chocolate shell and you switch the wrapper color?
It seems like a little nothing, but every time I go into Lindt to get a chocolate – and I really like marzipan – I have to read the label to figure out which one I should be buying. It constantly confuses me, and I don’t really like milk chocolate.
Now, at Lindt, are they really wasting much of my time? No. But what if you did this to your own employees? What if you used a certain color scheme and then suddenly made it mean the opposite? One thing I constantly read in articles from LEAN.org is that it’s these kinds of questions that get asked on Gemba walks. Why are we inconsistent? Why is this different or special?
Inconsistent colors may not seem like much, but it stands to confuse and slow down your business just ever so slightly. It’s not the one time you do it, it’s all the little times that you do it in various places that slow everyone down. It adds up.