Chocolate From Anyone to Everyone

As with many consumer products, advertising is an often used method for companies to increase awareness and desirability of their products. Chocolate is no stranger to this phenomenon. In this blog post, we will examine two chocolate advertisements: one by Lindt and another original creation. I argue that the former advertisement only promotes one use case of chocolate, along with gender stereotypes that fit with current socio-historical trends driven by growing media influence. On the other hand, the latter accommodates for a greater variety of use cases and adheres better to traditional chocolate consumption practices. That said, both advertisements do share similarities in their ignorance of the entire cocoa supply chain and their focus on the upper-class.

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Advertisement 1 (from Lindt). Image from [4]
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Advertisement 2 (original advertisement).

The first difference between the two advertisements is the purpose of chocolate that they put forward. Advertisement 1 clearly frames chocolate as the appropriate method of appeasing (or seducing) a man’s girlfriend using two key devices. First, the term “big boys” suggests that men must use chocolate in this way to be desirable in society. Furthermore, the disheveled nature of the chocolate box and dark, mysterious setting has connotations of sexual activity. This suggests that the man’s effort at seducing his girlfriend succeeded, thereby appealing to men who believe the stereotype that a successful relationship for men is one filled with sexual activity. On the other hand, Advertisement 2 portrays chocolate as a treat to be enjoyed in a wider array of settings that enhances “any relationship”. This agrees better with historical chocolate consumption patterns in Mesoamerican society, where chocolate was consumed in group settings [1]. Thus, these two advertisements imbue chocolate with two very different purposes.

Another difference relates to the extent that each advertisement promotes various gender stereotypes. Advertisement 1 is clearly heteronormative. It also portrays women as objects owned by men, by placing the focus on the “big boys” and presenting the women as “their girlfriends”. The advertisement is clearly targeted at men, promoting the stereotype that men should be the ones purchasing chocolate for women. Advertisement 2 on the other hand, by portraying chocolate as an item to be consumed by friends, does not cater to a particular ethnicity, and in particular, does not promote any sort of gender stereotype. Thus, a key difference between the two advertisements is the extent to which they promote existing gender stereotypes.

Given the characteristics of both advertisements, we also argue that the first advertisement falls more in line with current advertising trends. When chocolate was first introduced to Europe, although it was known to be an aphrodisiac, it’s main purpose was not as a romantic gift [1]. However, in Advertisement 1, this is very much the suggested purpose of chocolate, fitting in with a popular culture that has associated chocolate with love so much that it became a staple gift on Valentines’ Day [2].

That said, although both advertisements are very different, they share some similarities. Firstly, they both portray chocolate as being consumed by upper-class citizens. In advertisement 1, the packaging of the chocolate suggests that the chocolate is aimed at the upper-class and in this sense, we move against the trend of the late 19th century, where technological innovations made chocolate cheaper and more available to the masses [3]. Although less explicit in advertisement 2, the people in the advertisement are likely part of the upper-middle class, given the urban setting and their attire. Targeting the upper class with these advertisements makes sense, because that is the target market of the chocolate brand Lindt, with their motivation for profit causing them to rebrand these chocolate offerings as premium products.

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Figure 1. Harvesting cacao pods is an aspect of chocolate production often left out of advertisements. Image from [5]
Another similarity is that both advertisements fail to sufficiently explore the entire production process of cacao, in particular the harvesting of cacao pods as in Figure 1. Advertisement 2 is in a fairly developed urban city, whereas Advertisement 1, though unclear, seems to be set in a home. Both of these settings are far away from the plantations that create the cocoa. That said, I argue that Advertisement 2 is still socially justifiable on the grounds that it does not promote many of the cultural stereotypes current chocolate advertisements do. Furthermore, forcing all advertisements to cover all aspects and issues in chocolate production, marketing, and consumption process is excessive and idealistic.

In conclusion, this blog post has compared and contrasted two advertisements for the chocolate company Lindt. Advertisement 1, though alluring, only depicts one use case of chocolate: one that reinforces existing gender stereotypes. On the other hand Advertisement 2 is more neutral and still portrays the chocolate in a positive light. Advertisement 1 can be seen as a manifestation of the homogeneity we see in chocolate advertising today. Given this, advertisements more diverse and less stereotypical are important to ensuring that chocolate consumers are properly informed.

Sources

[1] Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2000. Print.

[2] Carr, David. Candymaking in Canada: The History and Business of Canada’s Confectionery Industry. Toronto: Dundurn, 2003. Print.

[3] Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York, NY: Viking, 1985. Print.

[4] Lindt Chocolate Advertisement. N.d. Fototime. Web. 7 Apr. 2016. <http://www.fototime.com/ftweb/bin/ft.dll/picture?PictId=%7BFEA85F48-9531-477A-A50D-58E03F20C59E%7D&size=ORIG&gt;.

[5] Harvesting Cocoa Beans. 2012. Cocoa Nibs Blog. Web. 7 Apr. 2016. <https://cocoanibs.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/harvesting-cocoa-beans.jpg&gt;.

 

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