While visiting the grocery store, an image/idea started to poke its way into my consciousness.
Did I really just see a poster advertising XXL condoms in the Freezer section?
So I pushed my buggy of groceries back over to the ice cream section, and there it was.
At the time, I had no idea that Magnum is a European luxury brand ice cream bar and with production worldwide, as subsidiaries of Unilever. Possibly being in the target demographic of Unilever, I understand sexual innuendo is gimmick for Magnum ice cream bar marketing from the outset, as this late 1990’s TV ad shows.
There is no doubt in my mind what Unilever is up to with Magnum’s brand re-launch. Earlier iterations of the Magnum brand of Belgian chocolate ice cream bar in Europe usually featured an attractive actress in the act of placing the ice cream bar into her mouth. They still do this!
Now we are growing accustomed to a brand associating masturbation and chocolate coated ice cream bars? Pretty boring when viewed in that context. Is masturbation sex? Is it a gimmick to sell ice cream-masturbation fantasies to a species wired to reproduce?
The days of selling to narcissistic or crazy women, or the men in the lives of narcissistic crazy women, are long past. They’ve seen stereotyping middle class white women as unreliable citizens (though reliable consumers) or careless housekeepers with a bone to pick with men, and raised it.
The nerve of these marketers, offering a pleasure experience with a sexualized ice cream.
Sex sells. Solo sex sells. Innuendo in multiples of six.
It is annoying.
The video for the India market that follows, is somewhat tame of the entire line of Magnum brand advertisements, at least until the end.
Magnum’s marketing team also produced a gender-nonconforming video ad.
Clearly, the implications are interesting, and watching the video while understanding that image will always rule over print, this screen grab of the female silhouette in a high rise (at 43 seconds in) biting into the ice cream bar which is not exactly a g-rated silhouette in relation to the woman. But I ask myself why that particular moment caught my attention.
Just what is this Magnum ice cream branding episode doing to me? Is that their intent, to make us think about sex, and that their ice cream bar is a perfect swap-in for the imperfect love life?
The non-conforming do get a bite of the chocolate covered ice cream bar. The cis-gender female are in a submissive role above, and framed with the shag rug – the ad clearly indicates it is not the size that matters for the magnum mini (though size is a good thing as we learned with other size of their ice cream bars). So the mini-lover just ate all six at once, and now chews her thumb: eyes-shut mid-pose in a rug-framed gastronomic chocolate coating induced ecstasy. It seems the Magnum marketing team do have a tendency to place a male dominant-female submissive according to one analysis. Even a small ice cream can dominate an incapacitated (dominated by pleasure) female.
While researching, it became clear that the brand re-launch campaign for Magnum has been worldwide over a few years now. The South Asian launches are relatively tamed, but still have a faintly sexualized framework with a crowd sourced selfie contest: show pleasure while biting on the ice cream bar for a chance to have a selfie with Bollywood star Kareena Kapoor.
The East Asian campaign roll-outs are clearly over the top with sexual connotations and not just innuendo. The campaign involved bloggers crowd-sourcing for a Magnum contest to win a night in a chocolate scented luxury hotel suite.
Between the brand’s gold balloons and all that entails, the innuendo ranges from subtle to blatant. This is marketing “pleasure”, some of it shared, but most of all, we consumers become adjusted to the laissez-faire with the images and the innuendo. Not only that, but it changes us.
So instead of going on and on with an anti-structural bother about it, I figured out that one route to hijacking the inevitable sellers channeling of sex, narcissism and anxiety into sales, chocolate might be sold based on intellectual and scholarly knowledge of eros, inviting chocolate lovers to engage with the classics. What could be sexier than the words of the worlds greatest love poet, Sappho of Lesbos ?
By reworking erotic associations for chocolate, and raising the intellectual engagement for buying brains with my images of chocolate, I’d try refraining from appealing to basic instinct (sex) or status hierarchy (power and standing) and avoid commoditizing, fetishizing, infantilizing , size-izing, and sexualizing any people groups or outliers based on stereotyped assumptions. I have my own ideas about what constitutes boiling it down to basics while baking in some interesting pursuits towards the meaning of Eros, aka Desire.
I chose the above image from a CC 3.0 image in Wikipedia because it is very high quality and represents chocolate both in mid-production and as finished product. Showing the chocolate in late stages of production process will not abstract things, which might happen with pictures of a Cacao pod, or dried cacao seeds or nibs. I also carefully chose the color of the fonts and programmed 3 font colors. This color is called Vegas (RGB 197-179-88) and of all of the possible colors tried, none worked. So I thought about it and brought out the gold font for it.
I may not have the money for a global marketing blitz, and I can only sell an intellect tinged with the classics.
(Addendum: I bought a 3 pack of White Chocolate Magnum Ice Cream Bars. As I ate the 1st bar, it reminded me of a white chocolate Easter bunny, certainly it was no tastier – but I liked it anyway. I also realized while eating the bars, that there was nothing remotely sexual about it, and that Unilever’s marketing have been trolling consumers with truly sleazy sexual innuendo, and for their U.S. rollout, using the Magnum condom association to drag us over to take a closer look. What could possibly be more jaded?)
Carson, Anne. Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 1986. Print.
Cullhed, Anders. Pangs of Love and Longing: Configurations of Desire in Premodern Literature. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Pub, 2013. Print.
DiPardo, Michelle. “Magnum Continues to Push Decadence with New Campaign.” Marketing Magazine Magnum Continues to Push Decadence with New Campaign Comments. Rogers Digital Media, 13 July 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. <http://www.marketingmag.ca/brands/magnum-continues-to-push-decadence-with-new-campaign-151922>.
Nichols, JamesMichael. “Magnum Launches ‘Be True To Your Pleasure’ Campaign Featuring Gender-Nonconforming Individuals.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 May 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/27/magnum-gender-nonconforming_n_7452430.html>.
Pradeep, A K. The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley, 2010. Print.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.