The double standard of stereotypes in chocolate advertising

Godiva is a luxury chocolatier that operates in over 80 countries globally ( 2015). In 2004 Godiva North America released a campaign targeting an appeal to women’s ‘inner divas’ (Zammit 2004). One goal of the advertisements was to cut across generational lines, given Godiva has primarily targeted 35 to 54 year-olds in the past, and this style of advertisement would appeal to all women who balance long hours with other responsibilities (Zammit 2004). In this essay I argue that the Godiva campaign not only fails to appropriately convey its intended message, but it also propagates problematic stereotypes that depict women as subordinate beings who are unable to control their own emotions and desires. In order to illuminate this issue I provide an original advertisement that plays upon the same binaries, using a man instead of a woman to highlight an inherent double standard. Finally, I use an excerpt from a Divine Chocolate campaign to illustrate how a message similar to the one Godiva intended can be appropriately conveyed.

In the advertisement shown below, white Victoria’s Secret model Frankie Rayder is positioned in the foreground looking over her shoulder at the camera with seductive eyes, holding up a single Godiva chocolate between her thumb and index finger. The combination of what appears to be a nightgown, frizzed hair and slightly glistening/flushed face suggests some sexual activity has just occurred. The background, a blue room dimly lit with lamps on gold chandeliers, ornately designed walls and a vase, appears in the style of a previous century. Text in gold font reads, “Every woman is one part (Go)diva, much to the dismay of every man.” This image is part of a broader collection in which individual models are situated in similar settings, each holding a piece of Godiva chocolate, accompanied by a different text incorporating the word ‘(Go)diva’.


The purpose of the advertisement is to appeal to all women who balance long hours with other responsibilities, but that connection is not apparent. More apparent is a pampered woman who is in no way ready to balance anything with other responsibilities. Her dishevelled appearance and the old-money location in which she is situated suggest that she is provided for, not the provider, and unable to focus on anything other than the chocolate between her fingers. Robertson (2010) corroborates the likelihood of this scene in a tongue-in-cheek tone, describing how “women’s identities may thus become subsumed by their [chocolate] consumption habits, just as they may lose their identity in devotion to a man” (pg. 35). The text in the image further promotes this notion. The word ‘diva’ is from the Italian for goddess, but it has also taken root in pop culture as having connotations of a certain brash self-centeredness (Cho 2004). Thus, I interpret this advertisement as depicting a spoiled woman who has become irrationally emotional in the presence of a Godiva chocolate, which is something that would evoke dismay in every man.

In response to the Godiva advertisement I created a similar image, but with a man instead of a woman. Holding stereotypes constant, the foreground of this advertisement depicts a well-groomed and well-dressed white man sitting in an antique chair, staring sensually into the camera while holding a bar of chocolate* in his hand. In the background is a fire burning inside of a marble and wood fireplace, with a painting on top of the mantle and a lamp in the corner. The gold font reads, “ Every man is one part God(iva), much to the pleasure of every woman.”


This image above may appear absurd, but it is not dissimilar to the Godiva image, and I would argue it could relate to all men who balance long hours with other responsibilities better than the Godiva image relates to equivalent women. Both portray attractive white people in traditional wealthy European settings, and both texts refer to the person as divine (diva vs god). However, whereas the woman is dressed for bed with ruffled hair and a sweaty face, the man is ready for business. Whereas the woman’s body is turned away from the camera with the chocolate raised to her face, the man is facing the camera with the chocolate lowered, suggesting an elevated level of focus. Whereas ‘diva’ refers to a being that is divine but also irrational and arrogant, ‘god’ refers to a being that is divine without the negative connotations, which ‘necessarily’ would bring every woman pleasure. Despite all of this, double standards that permeate through contemporary western society would likely view the problematic Godiva image as elegant and effective, and the other image as silly and nonsensical.

Divine Chocolate is a company taking appropriate steps to correct the problematic double standard previously discussed. Their 2005 marketing campaign (excerpt below) presents an example of how an advertisement can actually connect with women who balance long hours with other responsibilities. Divine uses female cacao farmers from the Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana as its models. Kuapa Kokoo owns approximately half of the shares of Divine Chocolate, and because it is a cooperative it makes each of the models part owners of the company (Leissle 2012). This ‘women with attitude’ campaign depicts the well-groomed farmers/owners in ornate cosmopolitan clothing that is factory-made but also retains touches of their African culture in the foreground, with images of Ghana’s agricultural economy in the background (Leissle 2012). The accompanying text is not sexual, but still empowering, with no need to reference a divine being. If more companies can operate in a similar manner to Divine Chocolate, there may be hope for gender equality in advertising and greater society sooner rather than later.

Source: Divine Chocolate in Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139
Source: Divine Chocolate in Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139

* The bar of chocolate is not Godiva.


Cho, Cynthia (2004) Godiva Appeals to the Diva Within.

Godiva (2015)

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press,

Zammit, Deana (2004) Chocolate Meets Fashion in New Godiva Effort.


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