Advertising is rarely about a product itself. Usually, it is about convincing consumers that if they buy a product – be it perfume, a car, or chocolate – they will somehow gain something else they want. Advertisements sell ideas, more than actual products. An ad might sell the idea of a happy home, for example, or a good job, or a fun escape from worry. These are not things that can actually be guaranteed by purchasing a cleaning agent, or a new suit, or a specific brand of beer, but the job of good marketing is to manipulate the subconscious, not appeal to logic. Most often, now, advertisements sell sex. Print ads, television commercials, they all promote otherwise unrelated products in the same way. You can’t feel how soft your hair will be if you use a conditioner shown in a commercial any more than you can smell the cologne advertised on a billboard, but these ads will convince consumers that these are the things they want by being appealing on a more basic level.
One of the easiest ways to sell sex in this day and age is to put an attractive woman in a compromising position – often in little to no clothing – and have her interact in some way with the product being advertised. It’s sexist and exploitative, but it’s effective, and chocolate is a prime candidate for selling sex. From its inception in Western culture, chocolate has been linked with sex. Its origins in the New World lent it a sense of exotic mystery, and it has long been believed to be an aphrodisiac. Women in particular are the focus of the seductive powers of chocolate, and they are used shamelessly to sell it.
Godiva Chocolatier ran an ad campaign that fully embraced the sexiness inherent in chocolate. The vice president of marketing in North America stated that “Inside every female is a diva,” (Cho), and the ads used provocatively dressed models to display the company’s treats. “There is something aspirational about it that can appeal to a broad range of women,” (Cho) said the Harvest Communications founder and managing director, and that is what Godiva was going for, in an attempt to broaden the spectrum of core-buying women. The campaign appeals to women’s sense of self-indulgence, and the desire to feel sexy. They even used Victoria’s Secret models, like Frankie Rayder. But the ads themselves have very little to do with chocolate, they look more like Victoria’s Secret ads with the addition of small chocolate confections to remind buyers of what it is they are supposed to want. The idea this campaign is selling is that chocolate is a self-indulgence suited for a diva, and that divas, as well as chocolate, are sexy.
While various companies go through phases of marketing primarily towards women as mothers or wives, there’s always a tendency to swing back towards a more seductive track. This appeals to men as well as to women, both for purchasing power, but for other reasons as well. “Chocolate marketing can be seen… to follow the cultural trends of the Second World War, in objectifying women as sexual objects to maintain male morale,” (Robertson, 31). The exploitation of women was considered acceptable because it was for the good of men, and this particular trend, while not powered by the need to uplift the spirits of men in battle continues today. Even when aimed at female consumers, there is the drive for those consumers to appeal to men and their needs.
It seems odd that a product so clearly driven by female consumers primarily exploits women. While chocolate ads featuring men do exist, the idea is usually that these men will be purchasing chocolate as gifts for the women in their lives, selling a romantic idea. Why shouldn’t men enjoy chocolate themselves? And why shouldn’t female consumers be drawn in by attractive men the same way male consumers are so often drawn in by attractive women? The counter ad campaign here uses professional athletes – players from the National Hockey League – to sell Hershey’s chocolate, specifically Hershey’s Kisses. Titled “Better Than Sex: The Hustler Campaign” it uses men to appeal to women.
As with Godiva’s Diva Campaign, the Hustler Campaign doesn’t use chocolate to sell chocolate, it uses something entirely different. It uses hockey, and hockey players. Instead of using attractive female models, here are attractive men telling consumers this is a thing they should want. Whether they are fighting, winning games, or showing off their assets, the presence of chocolate keeps the idea alive that it – Hershey’s chocolate – is what is making it all possible. Not a particularly logical conclusion, but, after all, ads sell what the consumers want, whether or not the product can hold up to the promise.
Cho, Cynthia H. Godiva Appeals to the Diva Within: Chocolatier’s Upcoming Ads Target Younger Consumers; Dinner with Sarah Jessica? The Wall Street Journal, 2004.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women and empire: a social and cultural history. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
Hershey’s Kiss Image from https://www.hersheys.com/en_us/products/hersheys-kisses.html