“Men are hungry, women deserve a treat,” reads a section on consumer insight from the textbook, “Consumer Behavior” (Szmigin & Piacentini 365). This type of rationalization has become so ubiquitous in charging chocolate advertisements today that we often accept this dynamic as innately and carnally true, rather than a product of social forces that dictate standards for appropriate behavior. Chocolate advertisements everywhere–from Godiva’s “Every woman is one part Godiva” slogan, to Dove’s “Now it can last longer than you can resist”–propagate this dynamic by pandering to women in a way that portrays chocolate as an acceptable vice that’s deeply intertwined with their sexuality, desirability, and identity. Emma Robertson argues that “Women as consumers of chocolate have historically been depicted as obsessed by the product,” and that “Chocolate has supposedly addictive properties which women are unable to resist” (Robertson 35). This constant reinforcement thus begets a somewhat comical overabundance of chocolate advertisements directed at women, and less humorously–a culture in which women are definitively fated to the positions society tells them to occupy.
Chocolate’s conception as a temptation for women has varied undertones. Robertson argues that the guilt associated with chocolate consumption “supposedly arises from the selfish pleasures of consumption for women,” and it conforms to the theme of “women culturally constructed as constantly negotiating temptation” that society thrusts upon them. (Robertson 35). Temptation is instinctively tied to sexuality, and chocolate advertisements capitalize on this association by equating chocolate’s allure with a sexual one. Unlike sexual temptation, however, surrendering to chocolate’s temptation doesn’t result in a woman’s vilification, which compels the portrayal of chocolate as an acceptable outlet for sinful gratification. Chocolate’s reputation as a fatty food also feeds the notion temptation–”There is a theory that because chocolate is perceived as “bad food” – because of its sugar and fat content – we try to avoid eating it, and this leads us to crave it, because it is forbidden” (Roxby). This mentality is inevitably tied with the pervasive idea that women are slaves to their body image, and therefore, must fixate on their dietary details in a way that men don’t, and importantly–don’t need to. Katherine Parkin states that chocolate ads don’t need to lure men in since “Men have more freedom to indulge in all kinds of pleasures” (Anderson).
This over-fixation on women in chocolate advertisements naturally causes a dearth in ads catered to men, which may have been the force driving the Yorkie “It’s not for girls” chocolate campaign. Though Yorkie ads aren’t designed to coax a woman’s sexuality, they still feed into the aforementioned “men are hungry, women deserve a treat” mentality by boasting the size and chunkiness of their chocolate bar, “firmly positioning yorkie as the ‘big and chunky’ chocolate bar for men” and by doing so, they become as problematic as womens’ chocolate ads. (Smith & Taylor 334).
In one Yorkie advertisement, a woman dressed up as a man attempts to buy a Yorkie chocolate bar, while the salesman quizzes her with tests of “manliness” such as making her open a jar and attempting to scare her off with a spider, with the obvious premise being that only men are allowed to consume Yorkie bars. The woman passes every test until she presumably takes a compliment about her eyes too deeply to heart, indicating that she is undoubtedly a woman and prompting the salesman to deny her a Yorkie. The ad is almost so ludicrous in its gender stereotyping and arbitrary specifications on manliness that it initially seems like it was created in jest. Unlike some other chocolate ads, there’s no ambiguity about the ad’s intentions and blatant sexism. It attempts to cater to men by promulgating negative stereotypes that relegate women to a sphere of behavior in which there is implied weakness and squeamishness. Furthermore, it depicts preoccupation with appearance–accepting a physical compliment in this case–as a fundamentally feminine characteristic, insinuating that women are vain and concerned with their appearance on such a primal level that they can’t help losing their composure in the face of a compliment. Likewise, the ad also alienates men by constructing an extremely narrow definition of manliness. It implies that every real man in that situation would pass the manliness test, and that every man should be able to open jars, or know about sports. The ad ultimately dehumanizes both genders by neglecting the variety of human experience and even trying to force a criteria for prescribing gender validity at all.
Our ad attempts to subvert the use of gender stereotypes in the Yorkie ad and in chocolate advertisements as a whole, appealing to those who don’t want to be forcibly ushered into a specific market group through subliminal–or even not subliminal–advertising. Since the Yorkie ad hinged on an appeal to the “strength” of men, we attempted to somewhat preserve this motif by modifying its ever-tired slogan, “It’s not for girls” to “It’s not for the weak-minded,” and the slogan from one of its ads, “Not available in pink” to “Gender stereotypes. You’re stronger than that.” We tried to steer the focus on physical strength into that of mental strength, which is much more inclusive and also abandons any gendered ties.
Though stereotypes in advertising often serve to permeate negative ideals throughout society, it’s somewhat understandable why chocolate companies often resort to this. Gaming the chocolate market requires companies to forgo diplomacy in favor of attracting consumers and acquiring profit. However, there are certainly ways to attract consumers that don’t focus on harmful ideals–for instance, by focusing on the explicit qualities of the chocolate and its taste. With a society that seems to be increasingly intolerant of stereotypes, it’s unclear whether advertisements that attempt to single out or discriminate against certain groups will be able to garner success in the future.
Anderson, L.V. “What’s Up with the Stereotype That Women Love Chocolate?” Slate. Slate, 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Roxby, Philippa. “Chocolate Craving Comes from Total Sensory Pleasure.” Health. BBC News, 27 July 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2015.
Smith, P.R., and John Taylor. Marketing Communications. 4th ed. London: Kogan Page, 2004. Print.
Szmigin, Isabelle, and Piacentini, Maria. Consumer Behaviour. Oxford UP, 2015. Print.
Yorkie-Not-For-Girls. Digital image. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/multimedia/archive/00341/114100916__341964c.jpg. Web.
Dove Chocolate. Digital image. Http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg. Web.
Godiva Chocolate. Digital image. http://files1.coloribus.com/files/adsarchive/part_647/6476105/file/chocolate-everywoman-small-84618.jpg. Web.
Yorkie – It’s not for girls. Video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcjlzSod0CE. Web.