In England, chocolate first became popular as a drink consumed primarily by men in public coffee houses. However, this consumption pattern quickly reversed as chocolate gained popularity. By the end of the 18th century, chocolate was considered to be a feminized product, with more female than male consumers (Robertson 20). Today, women are responsible for the majority of the 3 billion pounds that English consumers spend on chocolate every year (Cook 265). In fact, the only time of year in which men spend more money on chocolate than women is Valentine’s Day, and even then, it is estimated that 75% of all chocolate purchases in the week surrounding the holiday are men buying chocolate as a gift for the women in their lives (Cook 266). Considering that the vast majority of chocolate purchased in the western world is the result of an impulse buy, not the result of a gift purchase, big chocolate’s prioritized targeting of women left a gap in the market for advertising that would appeal to men as impulse buyers, not as gift buyers (Allen 20). Yorkie stepped into this gap in England, using advertisements that focused on a negative portrayal of manliness, based on what being a man was not, in order to create a chocolate bar aimed at male impulse buyers.
Yorkie, owned by Nestle, was started in 1976 with the goal of creating a chocolate brand aimed towards male consumers. For its first 30 years, Yorkie mostly played into traditional and stereotypical positive notions of manhood, ideas of what manliness was, by running advertisements that featured men driving tractors and trucks and operating heavy machinery (Query). This advertising could be considered similar to other chocolate advertising that fetishizes traditional notions of motherhood for women (Robertson 21). Such advertising casts its gender roles in positive stereotypical and hetero normative ways – showing what ideal motherhood, or ideal manliness, looks like. However, in 2003, Yorkie decided to take their advertising in a different direction, towards a negative conception of manliness. They shifted from branding their chocolate as a consumption good for men, to branding it as consumption good that was “not for girls” (Query). As you can see in the advertisement below, Yorkie defined manliness as something that girls couldn’t do.
There are some elements of this simple advertisement that appeal to a positive notion of manliness. The primary color is blue, the color typically associated with maleness, and the print is a simple, manly, block face type – there are no frills. However, these small details are overwhelmed by the ad’s explicit appeal to a negative conception of manliness. The advertisement is based on stereotypes of things that girls do but men don’t – like drive poorly, or give into their tender side and feed chocolate to the birds. This message is driven home by the fact that the phrase “not for girls” is both written out, and also displayed pictorially – with a slashing red line across the symbol of a women – so it cannot possibly be missed. There is nothing subtle about this advertisement – it is very clear in its intent to cast Yorkie chocolate as the manliest of candies by showing not what manliness is but what it is not – girliness.
This Yorkie advertising, however, is not an isolated incident, but rather is part of a larger trend. Remarkably similar negative appeals to manliness can be found in advertising for other foods that have been traditionally consumed by females – like diet soda. In 2011, Dr. Pepper launched its Dr. Pepper ten – it’s not for women, advertising campaign, a commercial from which can be found here (Anderson).
The advertisement below is a direct response to Yorkie, but also an indirect response to the marketing trend of advertising any food products as not for women or girls. This ad emphasizes equal access, and positive notions of who should be consuming Yorkie chocolate with the phrase, “it’s for everyone,” and the pictorial representation of the phrase with both male and female symbols – and no red lines crossing anyone out. Gone are the unflattering stereotypes of things women do that men don’t – and they are replaced with appeals to inclusive consumer choice, and gender equality – appeals that apply equally to people of both genders.
Nestle claims that the “not for girls” slogan was intended to be “tongue in cheek,” and that in a world of “increasing gender equality,” they felt that society was ready to begin to again explore the idea of “men being men” (Query). However, what Nestle failed to realize was that “increasing gender equality” is not the same thing as gender equality. In a world where only 24 women world wide are the head of their state or government, and where only 22% of national parliamentarians, and 5.4% of Fortune 1000 CEOs are women, there is no room for an advertisement that perpetuates the idea that there are spaces, or products, that are just for men and not for women (“Women in Leadership”; “Facts and Figures”).
Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of Chinese Consumers. New York: AMACOM, 2010. Print.
Anderson, Mae. “Dr Pepper Ten ‘not for Women'” COM. USA Today, 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Cook, Wendy. Foodwise: Understanding What We Eat and How It Affects. Forrest Row: Clairview, 2003. Print.
“Facts and Figures: Leadership and Political Participation.” UN Women. The United Nations, Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Query, Vanessa. “Nestlé UK’s Yorkie Is Not For Girls.” Insipid Missives. N.p., 02 July 2004. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Robertson, Emma. “A Deep Physical Reason: Gender, Race, and the Nation in Chocolate Consumption.” Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2011. 18-63. Print.
“Women in Leadership.” Pew Research Centers Social Demographic Trends Project RSS. Pew, 14 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Yorkie3. 2011. Evidence Based Marketing, n.p.