There are so many different chocolate brands and types of chocolate that you can buy and consume, but how do you know which one to choose? Why is it that some people go for the peanut M&Ms, but others will go straight for the 89% extra dark Ghirardelli Cacao? While a huge contributing factor is one’s taste, another main factor that captures consumer’s attention to buy certain chocolate is the advertisements and branding. Each chocolate brand has its own known logo that is altered around through different coloring based on different flavors. When examining the chocolate selections in retail stores such as supermarkets, CVS’s, and Chocolate Stores, one can learn an immense about how different chocolate brands sell themselves and capture the attention of certain consumers. “Adverts offer us ways of using commodities such as chocolate to say things about ourselves, our families, our social world. They also position us in relation to that product as gendered, classed and raced beings” (Robertson, 19). I decided to look at the chocolate selection in CVS because CVS is a universal store that has everything, especially all different types of chocolate. Based on the type of branding, advertisement, coloring of packaging, price, and labeling, I will highlight through the analysis of CVS chocolate selections how different chocolate brands are tailored to capture the attention of specific audiences.
When I walked into CVS in search of the chocolate section, I was faced with two different sections that contained chocolate: the “Bagged Chocolate” aisle, and the “Premium Chocolate” Section. I write section after “Premium Chocolate” because it is only a tiny little section at the end of one of the aisles, right across from the freezer dinners. However, the labeling of this section is spot on because it does contain all of the higher quality and “Premium” kind of chocolate such as Ghirardelli, Ritter, Lindt, and Ferrero Rocher. These “Premium Chocolates” are more expensive with prices being $5.29 per bar of chocolate or 2 for $10 dollars. The boxes of these chocolates were significantly higher with prices well in the twenties and some in the thirty dollar range. Within each brand of chocolate, there are tons of different flavors, each distinct with a specific packaging color. For example, the flavors of Lindt truffles that were on the shelf at CVS were stracciatella white chocolate, coconut milk chocolate, extra dark chocolate, caramel milk chocolate, white chocolate, seat salt milk chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. All of these flavors had a different color bag, but contained the same logo in order to allow customers to distinctly identify such brand of chocolate.
However, when looking at these advertisements, the color of the packaging does not only represent the flavor, but also it carries underlying meanings of race, class, and gender. For example, in the packaging for Lindt truffles, the white chocolate truffles are usually in a white or lightly colored package while the dark chocolate truffles are contained in a black or a dark colored packaging, which stems back to racial issues that have been constantly involved in chocolate advertising. In Professor Martin’s lecture on Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements, she states how chocolate & vanilla have become cultural metaphors for race. Chocolate is to blackness while vanilla is to whiteness. In addition to the obvious, whiteness is also associated with purity, cleanliness, and blandness while blackness is associated with impurity (sin), dirtiness, sexuality, and interest (Lecture 16). In the Lindt packaging at CVS, we can see how race is being highlighted and signified due to the color of the packaging based on the flavor of chocolate. This is also evident in the Ghirardelli chocolates that were in the “Premium Section” of CVS because the color of the packaging signifies the color of the chocolate, which hints at race. For example, the “Intense Dark” Hazelnut Heaven, and 86% Cacao are black in color, which signifies it being the darkest and most aggressive while white chocolate is called “Vanilla Dream”signifying how it’s perfect and blissful. Extreme enjoyment and pleasure comes with eating Vanilla Dream.
The “Bagged Chocolate” section is where all the “cheaper” chocolate is found, or much of the chocolate that a lot of young kids and the general population are familiar with. This section in CVS takes up an entire aisle with half of the aisle devoted to big bags of Kit Kat, Reeses, M&Ms, Dove, Hershey’s, Snickers, Butterfingers, York Peppermint Patties, and mixes of all these different chocolates, which are largely owned by MARS Chocolate. The prices of these are on sale with everything being 2 for $6 and the bag of Dove chocolates being 2 for $7. Next to the bagged chocolate are the large bars of chocolate, which contain the same chocolate selection with the addition of Cadbury and Toblerone. Advertising has “created, and reinforced, particular uses and identities for each type of product: so, whilst a chocolate bar may be consumed as a source of concentrated energy [to be carried on walking expeditions for instance], a box of chocolates may be bought as a gift (with all the social implications of the gift relationship). In both situations the commodity is chocolate, but the attendant meanings are vastly different” (Robertson, 19). With the bagged chocolate, it contained all the type of chocolate that one would buy for Halloween or a party because it came in bulk, which was significantly cheaper than the chocolate in the Premium Chocolate section, and would be easily to distribute to a mass group of people.
The name of the aisle section, “Bagged Chocolate”, is attempting to appeal to the people who do not want to spend a lot of money on chocolate and are looking for something of bigger supply. Usually when things come in bigger portion, like these giant bags of chocolate, they tend to be lower quality and lower priced, which appeals to people who don’t want to spend that much money. In this case, these bagged chocolates may appeal to people who have kids or deal with kids on a daily basis because children obviously would not appreciate or care about eating higher quality chocolate and rather they just want to eat the pretty looking M&Ms or anything that is chocolate related. Markets for these big chocolate companies use this technique as a way to market to children because it is a such a lucrative business. In Professor Martin’s Lecture on chocolate advertisement, she states how companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children, a staggering increase from the $100 million spent in 1983. While companies spend a plethora on money to get kids to buy their candy, children under 14 spend about $40 billion annually. Compare that to the $6.1 billion 4-12 years olds spent in 1989 and that is a significant increase. Teens spend about $159 billion on consumption (Lecture 17). This is a huge number for children and teens, so the big chocolate companies like MARS put a lot of thought into their packaging and marketing technique in order to lure in this specific type of audience. As a result, they make their candy colorful with pictures and cartoons, and sold in bags so parents would buy the bigger bulk of chocolate because it may aesthetically please the kids.
In addition to having the chocolate candies in bulk and King Sizes, the coloring of the packaging is also fun, bright colors like bright green, yellow, orange, or red, which captures the eye of the consumer. This would appeal to many kids and children because it would remind them of fun, happiness, and excitement.
For example, when looking at the different bags of M&Ms, they are all a different color, which represents the different flavors. However, what is similar besides having the M&M sign is that there is always some sort of M&M man or lady who is side glancing at either the consumer or up at the M&M sign in a rather seductive way. First off, having this M&M man is attracting both younger kids because he looks fun and the packaging is fun colors, but it also attracts women because the side eye glance is a form of seduction to try and lure women into buying the product. This is a marketing strategy because women are usually large consumers of chocolate, so the notion of having women be seduced by chocolate is a common theme in advertisements.
When looking at the different chocolate selections in CVS and the two different chocolate sections, one is able to notice the type of audience that the chocolate brand is intended to attract based on the kind of language that the product uses to lure in its consumers. For starters, having a “Premium Chocolate” and a “Bagged Chocolate” section is a clear notion that one section is meant to attract the general population to lower quality and lower priced chocolate while the other section is meant to attract a small population of people who are appreciators of high quality chocolate. The word Premium sounds like the highest quality one can have while Bagged sounds like garbage. Also, the names of flavors are also an indicator of the type of people that the chocolate brands are trying to attract. In the Premium Chocolate section, the Ghirardelli flavors are Sea Salt Soiree, Dark %60 Cacao, “Intense Dark” Hazelnut Heaven, 86% Cacao, and Dark Chocolate Raspberry. These names are more sophisticated than the average Peanut M&Ms or Cookies n Cream Hershey’s, which signifies that Ghirardelli is trying to attract adult customers rather than children.
Even the bland logo design of Ghirardelli tells us that it is not trying to lure in their customers with aesthetically pleasing packaging, but rather with good tasting chocolate. Only those who know of such a brand, like adults and potentially wealthier buyers, would want to buy such chocolate because they like the actual chocolate.
The issue now is that many companies are now taking significant care and being very meticulous in their advertisement and packing design instead of solely focusing on the actual product. “The attraction of packaging can be defined as the art of establishing relationship, boosting awareness, willing to purchase, preferring a definite brand name and finally performing of shopping (Alavi, 2005).” In a study on the relationship of purchasing a chocolate based on its packaging, they concluded that “today, packaging is not merely used for preserving goods and commodities anymore, rather, roles and responsibilities are considered for it such as bringing about value added coupled with giving information and also prestige to purchaser. Packaging needs to attract customer, bring attractiveness, and safeguard dignity and personality of customers as well.” (Giyahi, 2011). As a result, we can see how consumption is no longer solely about taste. It is also about attractiveness of the packaging and the persuasiveness of the advertisement because at the end of the day, most people only want what captures the eye.
Alavi, M. (2005). Study of impact of packaging Choco Pars products on decision making of purchasers. Islamic Azad University of Central Tehran Branch: Master of business Administration (MBA).
Giyahi, Yasaman. “An Empirical study on the Relationship of Purchasing a Chocolate Based on its Packaging.” Growing Science. Volume 2. December 2011
Mars Incorporated and its Affiliates. 2015. Accessed April 30, 2015. http://www.mms.com/#product
Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements”. Harvard University, Cambridge. March 30, 2015. Lecture 16.
Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements”. Harvard University, Cambridge. March 30, 2015. Lecture 17.
McEachron, Natasha. “Lindt: A Brand Built on Chocolate, Truffles & Excellence.” March 27th 2012. Accessed April 30, 2015. http://nnmportfolio.com/branding/case-study-lindt#.VUKhlWTBzGc
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 2009
Shady, Justin. “Ghirardelli Coming to Disney California Adventure”. OC Weekly Blogs. OC Weekly. December 5, 2011. Accessed April 30, 2015. http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2011/12/ghirardelli_coming_to_disney_c.php