Although embedded in a historical context, today’s commercial portrayal of chocolate consumption often employs controversial tropes. The recent Three Musketeers advertisement is ineffective due to contradictions between the commercial portrayal and the actual customer demographic and existing public perception of the product. Even without considering potentially sexist or classist offensiveness, this commercial is plainly an unproductive piece of marketing because it is detached from the consumer experience.
First, the Three Musketeers advertisement follows the trend of depicting female lust for chocolate through sexualized comments and actions. Beginning in the colonial era when chocolate recipes allegedly “excite[d] the venereal appetite” (Coe 88), chocolate has long had purported aphrodisiac properties, despite limited evidential support. In advertising, the image of chocolate lasciviousness has historically been gendered. For instance, women in 1930s chocolate ads were often “urged to listen to their desires in an implicitly sexualized discourse” (Robertson 35).
Although sexualized chocolate obsession may have seemed cheeky in ads seventy years ago, the trope of female lust is ineffective today. Modern consumers are constantly bombarded by “sexy” ads so this technique is not shocking, and an implicitly sexual ad is even less scandalous next to today’s overtly sexual commercials (such as this Poulain ad). Unlike advertisements that objectify the body to sell products, despite the sexual remarks, this Mars commercial is unsexy to both genders; who is the intended audience of the commercial: men who want crazed women to attack them or women who see themselves as having obsessive longing? If Three Musketeers satisfies cravings, the product should put people at ease and make them happy, not sexually harassed. From a marketing standpoint, instead of using outdated, unappealing caricatures of chocolate consumers, Mars should either completely embrace the “sex sells” mantra or abandon this half-baked reference to lust. Given the family-friendly nature of Three Musketeers, it is more sensible for Mars to abandon this trope and create a marketing strategy aligned with their customer base to allow the audience to better relate to the product. For instance, the ad’s inclusion of women of different races suggests that Mars appreciates the appeal of a more representative depiction of its diverse customer base. Why can’t this effective practice also apply to gender portrayals?
Second, because Three Musketeers is not a luxury brand, portraying the chocolate within an elite socioeconomic class is ineffective branding. Chocolate was an “elite drink among the…Mesoamericans, and it stayed that way among the…nobility of Europe” (Coe 125-126), causing chocolate to be considered a high-class food. Although the mass consumption of chocolate ensued after the Industrial Revolution, the white-collared attire of the commercial’s main women perpetuates the image that chocolate is a delicacy for wealthier classes.
However, this image is incoherent with existing perception of Three Musketeers and may even alienate existing consumers who do not identify with the message of elitism. If this advertisement were for an expensive Mast Brothers bar, perhaps elite connotations are understandable, but Three Musketeers is the everyman’s cheap snack. For more authentic and coherent branding, the characters in the ad should not preclude the socioeconomic class that consumes Three Musketeers.
As an alternative, Mars can use “bandwagoning” as a marketing technique. This tactic has effectively advertised other consumer goods, such as in this Dr. Pepper commercial where everyone consumes Dr. Pepper. By portraying the product so that different people partake in an enjoyable experience, the ad encourages non-participants to join and buy the product. Thus, the product transcends gender, age, class, and racial boundaries and appears as the accessible product that it is.
The response advertisement uses this method by featuring a Three Musketeers bar and people of different ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic classes (professional and casual people) reaching for the chocolate bar. This response illustrates the consumer base more accurately and removes class and gender norms that are incongruent with the product. Admittedly the use of online stock images (out of necessity, not choice) within the ad does bias the presentation towards a certain more attractive, “cookie cutter” demographic, but the spirit behind this response advertisement reflects an emphasis on more accurately portraying diversity within Mars’ customers.
Moreover, lustful desires are also replaced by group excitement for chocolate, evident through the bandwagon technique and new slogan. Repurposing the original Three Musketeers saying, the slogan underscores the inclusivity and accessibility of the product. In contrast with the predatory expressions in the commercial, the cheery looks on the consumers’ faces show a genuine, relatable excitement for the product. No longer put off by a strange and uncomfortable portrayal of Mars consumers, viewers will be motivated join into the familial community of Three Musketeers lovers. Charming, compelling communal enthusiasm for the product, thus, replaces unattractive obsessions for chocolate.
To improve their marketing, Mars should represent chocolate consumers more accurately and use better persuasive techniques to market the products. It is often difficult to combat conventions in advertising, such as “sex sells”, because they effectively entice the customer. However, the tropes in the Three Musketeers ad exemplify how certain stereotypes in chocolate advertising are not only distasteful but more importantly (as some may argue), bad for business.
“3 Musketeers “Catwalk” Commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gtMLIp2w3kU&feature=youtu.be >.
Coe, Sophie D. and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Revised [and Updated Ed.]. ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007. Print.
“Dr. Pepper Commercial – I’M A PEPPER – David Naughton.” YouTube. YouTube, 02 Mar. 2008. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQPN3UKQM-U>.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
“SEXY CHOCOLATE commercial.” YouTube. YouTube, 28 Apr. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzOchsY4RhQ>.