The Cologne-based communication agency Simple has created an unusual and distinctive brand experience for Swiss chocolate manufacturer Maestrani. Everything at the visitor centre revolves around the question: How does happiness get into chocolate?

Simple’s interdisciplinary team of experts spent four years designing and producing the brand story and scenography. As the general contractor and creative lead, the agency was responsible for coordinating all aspects of the spatial experience. A lot of chocolate manufacturers in Switzerland have visitor centres and factory outlets. The majority present their factories as culinary workshops. With its Chocolarium, Maestrani is taking a new approach. The goals of the Chocolate Factory of Happiness are to create an emotional brand experience, attract more visitors to the site and focus on the equal representation of the three brands Minor, Munz and Maestrani as a brand family. Fun, enjoyment and interaction are the top priorities.

So how does happiness get into chocolate?

In Maestrani’s Chocolarium, visitors use all their senses to find out in a playful and humorous way why chocolate makes people happy. They discover what happiness feels, sounds, looks, smells and tastes like … and of course, how it gets into chocolate. The visit begins with a film in which a “professor of happiness” opens the question of happiness and reports what he has learned on his research trips. He says there are three things we need for being happy: love, freedom and enjoyment – the pleasure of sweet moments, in the small indulgence of chocolate. The tour takes visitors through the Ingredients Port, the Happiness Seal and into the Laboratory of Inexplicable Happiness. In the imaginatively designed exhibition rooms, visitors are immersed in the colourful, adventurous world of chocolate and happiness. At one point, they can imagine being immersed in a shower of chocolate, and in another, they feel like they are wrapped in golden paper themselves. The sound of Swiss dairy cows rings from a “cow bell wishing well” and in an interactive exhibit, visitors discover how a smile can trigger happiness. These exhilarating experiences are accompanied by music specially created for the Chocolarium – composed and played by the Zurich Chamber Orchestra – as well as a special audio guide with 3D sound. A highlight for young visitors is the kids’ tour which guides them at eye level through the exhibition rooms. The Swiss cartoon character “Globi” helps locate hidden periscopes, interactive games and brief audio features. To round off the experience, visitors walk over the chocolate factory floor in a glass gallery. An integrated timeline takes them on a journey through the history of happiness, cocoa and chocolate.

Behind the scenes

The overall thematic concept is the core of the solution in every Simple project. According to Andreas Salsamendi, Managing Director of Simple and native of Lucerne: “It is vital that we ask the right questions, make the most of our team’s diversity and creativity, and find the optimum balance of digital and haptic elements.” In a series of open discussions, concept developers, designers, architects, scenographers, illustrators, constructors, copywriters and project managers met at Simple’s premises. Together they developed numerous creative ideas for the dramatic concept, spatial design and interactive exhibits. With a keen eye for detail, the team planned every single element; always with the aim of encouraging visitors to actively engage with the exhi- bition using all their senses. At the agency’s own workshop, the team built prototypes to test the practical feasibility of the concept. Test runs ensure that all elements interact smoothly and achieve the desired effect.

The Cologne-based agency Simple GmbH produces brand experiences, exhibitions, museums, trade fair presentations and interactive communication platforms for cus- tomers from industry, economy and cultural sectors. In 2016, the agency recorded a turnover of € 3.9 million. Founded in 2000, the agency for spatial communication cur- rently has an interdisciplinary team of 21 employees.