Marketers, sell your product, not social norms

The aim of an advert is to promote a product and entice people to buy it. Marketing companies use people’s desires and emotions to promote products. However, in attempt to attract the largest audience, they often appeal to the general population and use social norms and stereotypes to advertise. For example, the vast majority of chocolate advertisements are targeted at women because women are stereotyped to consume vastly more chocolate than men, even though research has proven otherwise. Mintel found that females only consume 4% more chocolate than males (CNN; Mintel 2010; Mintel 2014). This is a surprising statistic. Many people expect a larger difference since advertisements have fostered the stereotype that women eat more chocolate than men. With advertisements present on televisions, billboards, the internet, magazines, newspapers, taxis, supermarkets, public transport, and many more places, it is estimated that each person is exposed to 3,000 advertisements per day (Johnson; Story). Therefore, problematic social beliefs are affirmed daily, as we are exposed to thousands of advertisements that perpetuate stereotypical representations of social norms. Therefore, even if an advert is based on a small idea, with daily exposure it becomes a stereotype, and the young next generation are fed these stereotypes and social norms such that they no longer see them as ideas but as truth. Thus, marketers have a huge influence and power on creating or affirming society’s beliefs. Therefore, marketers must be conscious of the message they send out as they advertise their products.

 

The Original Dove Advertisement

In 2007 the marketers of Dove were not careful with their advertising power and released the advert below. This advertisement is built on many troublingly social beliefs and is discriminative.

dove-chocolate-dove-chocolate-small-500651

Firstly, Dove has completely sexualised men here. They centred and enlarged the abs to fill the entire advertisement, blurred out the sides and background, increased the shadow under each ab, and increased the light reflected off of each ab. This highlights and make us focus only on the muscle and its definition, as if that is the only thing that is important. The human body has many components: emotional, spiritual, mental, physical, and intellectual components. Even physically the human body has many parts and yet Dove chose to show only the male’s abdominal muscles. This promotes a superficial attitude towards men and degrades them to being an aesthetic pleasure, something of only physical worth.

Furthermore, Dove does not only degrade men to a physical body but even more so, their choice to use of a man of colour degrades black men to an object. Dove has used the racist social construct that as Caucasians are to vanilla, Hispanics are to caramel, and Asians are to butterscotch, blacks are to chocolate. Their use of a black model and dim enticing sexual lighting shows that Dove is fostering the idea that while whiteness symbolises ideas of cleanliness, purity, dullness, and blandness, blackness denotes themes of dirt, sin, extreme sexuality, and interest. Therefore, the lack of use of the model’s face and the use of the model’s skin colour to compare him as chocolate represents the disrespectful degradation of black men from a person to an object – a chocolate bar that is worth roughly one dollar.

From the small text at the bottom of the advertisement we see that the intended audience of this advert is a girl. The first issue is that Dove promotes heterosexual relationships and excludes homosexuals. Therefore Dove has tagged along and helped grow one of the biggest problems in chocolate advertising today – extremely frequently, only heterosexual relationships are used to sell chocolate. This Nestlé compilation video shows three examples of such exclusion towards those who are in the minority and are not heterosexually oriented.

 

Dove’s advert is not only sexist and discriminates against men, but their specific wording fosters common stereotypes that surround women too. The word “melts” plays on and encourages the idea that women are overly emotional and irrational over chocolate and muscles, so much so that their most vital organ will melt after one look at a six-pack and a taste of Dove’s chocolate. Additionally, the use of the word “girl’s” instead of “woman’s” is demeaning because it suggests that in this heterosexual relationship the male is superior and the female is inferior. All in all, Dove’s wording suggests that men are more dominant and in control, which promotes a patriarchal social construct and prevents us from moving towards a gender equal society.

 

The Recreated Advertisement

To show that it is possible to advertise chocolate without fostering disrespectful social norms, being racist, sexist, or excluding people, I have recreated Dove’s chocolate advert below.

final version

The primary goal of an advertisement is to promote the product that you are trying to sell. Unlike in Dove’s advertisement, chocolate is clearly the product here. It is at the centre. It is large. It is clear. In Dove’s advert “Dove chocolate” was finely printed at the bottom and the tiny chocolate bar and pieces were in the lower bottom right corner. Previously, only if you looked closely could you have been able to tell that it was an advertisement for chocolate.

Furthermore, the recreated advert has moved away from promoting social norms. Since a six-piece chocolate bar has replaced the previously racialised and sexualised six-pack, the advert no longer degrades a person to their physique, nor to an object. The recreated advert also includes numerous races and people of different ethnicities so that the advertisement is neither exclusive nor racist. The ideas of a patriarchal society, overly emotional and irrational woman, and the exclusion of non-heterosexuals have been removed. Instead, the audience has opened up to be all-inclusive as the recreated advertisement plays on the idea that chocolate is fundamentally social: The Maya word “chokola’j”, a potential source for our Spanish and English word for chocolate today, means “to drink chocolate together” (S. D. Coe and M. D. Coe 61).

 

Concluding thoughts

Marketing companies need to be more conscious about the methods they use to promote their products. There is no problem in promoting products to inform potential consumers what they might want to purchase; however, this should be done in a way that does not exclude, racialise, sexualise, discriminate, or degrade people or communities, or affirm or encourage the growth of disrespectful social norms. A safer way to ensure moral marketing is to keep the adverts focused on the product itself – what it can do, its purpose, and why it is worth purchasing. This will help prevent the fostering of disrespectful stereotypes and social norms and enable us to be a progressive society.

 

Works Cited

“Anywhere the Eye Can See, It’s Likely to See an Ad.” 2007. Louise Story, The New York Times. 15 Jan 2007. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/15/business/media/15everywhere.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1 08 April 2016.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. “The True History of Chocolate.” Thames & Hudson 2007 (1996). 61. Print

“Consumer Demand for Chocolate Stays Sweet.” Mintel. 08 October 2010. Retrieved from: http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/consumer-demand-for-chocolate-stays-sweet 08 April 2016.

“Nation of Chocoholics: Eight Million Brits Eat Chocolate Every Day.” Mintel. 17 April 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.mintel.com/press-centre/food-and-drink/nation-of-chocoholics-eight-million-brits-eat-chocolate-every-day 08 April 2016.

“New Research Sheds Light on Daily Ad Exposures.” Sheree Johnson, SJ Insights. 29 September 2014. Retrieved from: https://sjinsights.net/2014/09/29/new-research-sheds-light-on-daily-ad-exposures/ 08 April 2016.

“Six Pack that Melts a Girl’s Heart.” 2007. Dove Chocolate, Mars Company. Digital File. 08 April 2016.

“Who consumes the most chocolate?” CNN. 17 Jan 2012. Retrieved from: http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/17/who-consumes-the-most-chocolate/ 08 April 2016.

 

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