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How Large Chocolate Companies and Smaller Chocolatiers Differentiate Themselves in Advertisements

The chocolate industry is evolving. Though major companies like Hershey and Mars have dominated it for its entire existence, new artisan or boutique chocolatiers are appearing, ready to challenge them for supremacy. The idea of small, local competition is nothing new for the behemoths, who had to combat independent grocers earlier in the 20th century. These new companies are more legitimate than an independent grocer, though. Some, like Taza, experience enough success that they grow into fairly large companies, and others, though they may remain small, still carry a distinct air of legitimacy.

These two sectors are quite different in scale, so how do they differentiate themselves in terms of how they advertise themselves to customers? Historian Emma Robertson notes that, “chocolate has long-standing associations with female sexuality” and discusses how this manifests itself in chocolate marketing in her book, Chocolate Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History (Robertson, 1-3). Though these sexualized undertones are strong throughout the chocolate industry and sometimes become painfully explicit in advertising, I will not focus on them here. Instead, I will be concerned with how the two sectors of companies differentiate themselves from each other in how they discuss and market their products. My two main examples will be Jacques Torres Chocolate and two subsidiaries of Mars, Dove and Galaxy. On the whole, the Jacques Torres material focuses on the quality of the product and the personality of Torres, while the Mars subsidiaries focus on chocolate’s larger connotations and its idealized worlds, which represents an evolution in the larger cultural discussion about chocolate in advertisements.

Historically, these two subsets of the chocolate industry have had to jointly combat the stigma of adulteration. Chocolate contains a multitude of ingredients, which, dating back to Cadbury in 1869, have a long history of being adulterated to cut costs. In her article “Blame Candy” in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Samira Kawash reports that, “candy makers were suspected of cutting corners… [and] boosting the bottom line by adding fillers like plaster or sawdust…, replacing chocolate with wax or nuts with cardboard, employing toxic dyes to create eye-catching colors” (Kawash). Though large companies like Cadbury were often implicated, this stigma was attached to all chocolate, including chocolate made by independent producers. One newspaper ad from the early 1900’s produced by Mars was entitled “You’ll Never Sell Her Cheap Candy Again” and introduced a short vignette with parents blaming their daughter’s stomach ache on cheap candy purchased at the local corner store, as opposed to the fine Mars products that “give you more quality” (Proquest Database). The branding war between large companies and small, independent producers, then, is nothing new.

Not only did small grocers and large companies compete over who would be stuck with chocolate’s negative associations, they also have differentiated themselves in their advertising for as long as chocolate has been mass produced. In their book Chocolate: History, Culture and Heritage, Louis Evan Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro note that in the late 1800’s, chocolate “manufacturers would supply retail merchants with large chromos [small cards with designs and advertisements on them] to stimulate sales.” While, “Victorian sentimentality prevailed” with larger chocolate companies’ ornate designs, the authors note that, “cards for grocers were much more business-like,” and often just listed prices or products (Grivetti & Shapiro, 185-7). This difference in marketing was probably merely one of necessity, as the smaller grocers could not afford the ornate designs of the larger companies. The underlying trend, however, of smaller chocolatiers focusing on their product exclusively and bigger companies worrying more about its connotations and ancillary benefits, persists to this day.

In 2016, the two groups wage a similar war, one that is played out online and on television as opposed to in newspapers. On Jacques Torres’s website, the company asserts itself as a provider of high quality, artisan, hand-crafted chocolate. The most subtle way it does this is through its name. Jacques Torres, nicknamed “Mr. Chocolate” is a relatively famous personality, but Torres’ name gives the company clout even independent of his reputation. The fact that the company is named after a specific person makes the customer feel as though they are personally interacting with Torres every time they engage with his company. It adds a level of personality and specificity that a big company cannot match. The “About Us” section goes on to detail Torres’s many accomplishments in his culinary career, granting him an air of absolute legitimacy. Nothing Mars puts out can compete with something personally crafted by an award-winning French chef. The section goes on to write that, “Jacques Torres Chocolate is proud to produce real food bursting with real flavor made without taking any shortcuts or adding any preservatives, extracts or ‘essences.'” Here, the company is appealing to the fraught history of chocolate, and assuring potential customers that they have no part of that. Jacques, it seems, is above such tricks.

Screen Shot 2016-05-04 at 10.44.29 PMhttp://www.mrchocolate.com/experience/

Other parts of the website underscore this point. In the picture above, Torres appears to be in touch with nature, and therefore healthy. The About Us section does claim, after all, that Torres’ chocolate is “better for you”. Though it does not elaborate on exactly what the chocolate is better than, any discerning chocolate customer may easily guess. The section closes with the words, “Real. Authentic. Original.” All of these words are variations on the same idea, which is that Jacques Torres chocolate creates a personal connection with the customer, and leverages that connection to gain legitimacy.

The video appearing prominently on the site achieves a similar effect.

This video is something called “A Taste of The Terminal”, and was produced by Grand Central Terminal. In its decision to include it in their website’s promotional material, though, the company elaborates upon the personableness and legitimacy that it has built in its “About Us” section. First, Jacques seems eminently likable. He is very nice to all whom he interacts with, posing for pictures and doing fist bumps with random strangers. The viewer wishes that he or she could have been in the station when he was handing out his crepe samples. Perhaps oddly, though, the video does not discuss chocolate much. The main focus, one could argue, is crepes. Here again, though, the company has shrewdly positioned Jacques as a culinary authority, a master of all. In establishing his ability as a maker of crepes, the video has established his ability as a chef overall, which makes him seem even more legitimate to a customer. Through all of his company’s promotional materials, Jacques Torres appears as a world-renowned pastry chef, who has come to personally cater to his customers’ needs.

Mars company, on the other hand, cannot quite compete with Jacques on a personal level. What it can do, is emphasize certain connotations about its products and those that eat them.

According to an article in the advertising journal The Spot, this advertisement was meant to “give the brand a fresh look, and spur more everyday purchases by customers” (Nudd, The Spot). The advertisement accomplishes this goal by using actors that appear more normal and even quirky. These are not the “classically” beautiful models from stereotypical perfume or chocolate commercials. The decision to film the advertisement as a stop-motion movie increases the quirkiness of the environment, and makes the magical enhancement of the environment by the characters seem more normal. The advertisement ties in these environmental expansions by telling the viewers, “It’s always better when there’s a little more to love”, connecting the bigger bar with the bigger landscape features. This advertisement is working on a much more implicit scale than the Jacques Torres promotional material, though. Whereas Torres touts the craftsmanship of the product and the legitimacy of the chef, Dove focuses on an idealized vision of the world in which its chocolate exists. If you want to live in that world, then you want to eat Dove chocolate.

The vision of an idealized world shines through even more clearly in this Galaxy advertisement, which Dove also used a shortened version of in America. The actress depicted is Audrey Hepburn, who has been CGI’ed into the scene. This detail already sets up the world as a sort of idealized fantasy-land, as Hepburn, long dead, could not possibly appear in a new advertisement–and yet, there she is. Inspired by her Galaxy bar, Hepburn leaves her bus and gets into the back of a man’s car and speeds away from a generic quaint European town into a generic quaint European countryside. The slow fade-in of the song, which is “Moon River”, a song from one of Hepburn’s most famous films, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, increases the sentimentality, as non-diagetic sound gradually overpowers diagetic sound. In this fantasy-land, Galaxy chocolate reins supreme. It has driven Hepburn to act boldly and run away with the man of her dreams (we may assume). People who would like a window into such a world or perhaps to be like Hepburn must eat Galaxy chocolate in order to attain such dreams.

The central difference between the Dove and Galaxy advertisements and the promotional material for Jacques Torres is that the Jacques Torres material focuses on the quality of the product and the Mars subsidiaries focus on its connotations. It seems that now, with chocolate under fire as an unhealthy food, the smaller artisans are attacking that stigma head on, while the larger companies are skirting it entirely and trying to reframe the conversation around not what chocolate contains, but, rather, what it means. Mars’ side-stepping of the debate positions it not so much as a food company, but as a lifestyle company. If you want to eat well, eat Jacques Torres. If you want to live well, eat Dove and Galaxy.


Works Cited:

Scholarly Sources:

Kawash, Samira. “Blame Candy.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 60.08 (2013). Biography in Context. Web. 12 Mar. 2016.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History

Grivetti, Louis, and Howard-Yana Shapiro. Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2009. Print.
Nudd, T. (2012, Apr). The spot: Heaven on earth. Adweek, 53, 11. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1008667105?accountid=11311.

Multimedia Sources:

“A Taste of the Terminal: Jacques Torres” from Youtube

“Dove Chocolate Bar Ad_ More To Love” from Youtube

“Audrey Hepburn: Galaxy Chocolate Commercial” from Youtube

“Mr. Chocolate: Experiences” http://www.mrchocolate.com/experience/

“Mr. Chocolate: About Us” http://www.mrchocolate.com/about-us/

“Display Ad 62–No Title”. New York Herald Tribune (1926-1962); Oct 20, 1933; Proquest Historical Newspapers: New York Tribune/Herald Tribune


Audrey Hepburn Sells Chocolate

    In the advertisement above a computer generated image (CGI) of Audrey Hepburn is used to sell Dove dark chocolate (Rohwedder). It is most likely aimed at the target demographic of women whom Audrey represents. The advertising company cleverly resurrects the adored late Audrey Hepburn. Her computerized look alike cleverly portrays Audrey’s iconic persona so convincingly that it almost feels like Audrey is and always will be with us. This association of Dove dark chocolate with Audrey the immortal legend who represents beauty, innocence, and sweetness refreshingly stands out amongst other ads which use sexualized imagery to sell chocolate products. The Dove chocolate advertisement emulates Audrey’s feminine and naive innocence, and the purity of 1950’s. Together these elements stand in stark contrast to the typical and predictable techniques to sell products with overt sexualization.

    The story line and narrative of the advertisement which is set in the idealized 50’s era, cleverly recreates the feel of the 1953 film “The Roman Holiday” starring Ms. Hepburn. The delightful visuals of a charming coastal Italian town, with hints of romance and the purity of an era of film long past, all work perfectly to set the tone. The computer generated Audrey Hepburn and her handsome lead man who closely resembles the iconic Cary Grant give a sense of a whimsical light-hearted unpredictability. The story starts with lovely Audrey sitting on a packed public bus which is stuck in a traffic. The mayhem is due to a collapsed fruit stand and it’s flamboyant owner. Audrey (or the CGI version of Audrey) looks longingly into her purse at her bar of Dove dark chocolate, then she glances out her bus window and meets the eyes of a handsome man in a car alongside the bus. When their eyes meet he gives Audrey an inviting wave gesturing her to his car. She smiles and without hesitation strolls out of the bus and playfully takes the bus drivers hat on her way to the handsome strangers car. She places the bus driver’s hat on the handsome man’s head, takes a seat in the back of his car- intimating and officiating him as her chauffeur. Looking slightly put out and yet besotted with her at the same time he drives away with Audrey in the back seat. The final scene is of Audrey with the handsome man driving on a winding coastal road as she snaps off a piece of Dove dark chocolate, placing it into her mouth framed by her perfectly scarlet glossed lips when the words “It’s not just dark. It’s Dove” appear against a perfect blue Italian sky. The advertisement refreshingly sells the chocolate by leaving the audience with the resonating feeling of romance, happiness, and beauty and lingering warm thoughts of chocolate. Moreover, the ad refreshingly empowers lovely and pure Audrey to sell their dark chocolate.

    Now that I have discussed the CGI version of adorable, innocent and flirty Audrey Hepburn as the star of the Dove chocolate commercial. For my advertisement, I created a montage of another side of Audrey. She remains the star of the ad, and similarly she is not sexualized in the ad in order to sell chocolate, but she does represents and evoke the opposite emotions of the romantic advertisement. The opposite of sweet, flirty, and happy go lucky is angry, sad, and unromantic and these emotions used correctly can also sell chocolate. In my advertisement, Audrey portrays women’s darker emotions and the audience is left with the resonating desire to consume dark chocolate. While both advertisements use the technique of using emotion to persuade, opposite emotions are employed in each ad. Audrey sells both while retaining her purity, innocence, and charm. Ultimately both advertisements sell chocolate, one to celebrate and relax and the other to comfort and calm, both appeal to the demographic of women.

    In the advertisement I produced the clips and scenes were drawn from a few Audrey Hepburn films to give the tumultuous and intense emotions of sadness, stress, and anxiety, which call require chocolate. Sometimes chocolate can be the only fix to receive comfort during these times. My advertisement implicitly delivers the message that if you need comfort, only a bar of dark chocolate will do. When I chose to use the more realistic, misunderstood, sad or angry, and even comical sections of Audrey’s films the technique of persuasion even worked on me. While editing my advertisement I had to eat dark chocolate. My persuasion technique was effective on me, who doesn’t turn to chocolate to comfort themselves. Find an escape in chocolate in good times and in bad like Audrey and every other woman.

“For the Brightest & Darkest of Times… Dark Chocolate”


Grant, Eilidh L. “AUDREY HEPBURN SELLS DARK CHOCOLATE: Advertisement for Class.” Youtube. Eilidh Grant, 8 Apr. 2016. Web. 8 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ROK7JZSZyY&feature=youtu.be&gt;.

“”It’s DOVE:Feat. Audrey Hepburn” 2014 Commercial.” Youtube. Cinemagia Filmes, 15 Mar. 2014. Web. 6 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB44n4ADg2Y&gt;.

Rohwedder, Kristie. “How Did They Make the Audrey Hepburn Dove Chocolate Commercial? Let’s Take a Look.” Bustle. Bustle, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <http://www.bustle.com/articles/22563-how-did-they-make-the-audrey-hepburn-dove-chocolate-commercial-lets-take-a-look&gt;.

Unwrapping Chocolate Potential in the East: How Foreign Companies Wooed Chinese Consumers

Chocolate was introduced to Europe in the 16th century but it was not until the end of the 20th century that the godly good made its way to China. By the end of the 20th century, China had undergone dramatic social and economic expansion, and the world’s largest chocolate companies (the “Big Five”: Ferrero SpA, Cadbury, Hershey Co., Nestlé SA, and Mars Inc.) recognized the potential of introducing chocolate to the Chinese market (Allen 202). At the time however, chocolate had no history or tradition in China, thus highlighting the importance of finding a meaningful way of introducing the good. The “Big Five” companies needed to have a profound understanding of cultural differences in order to do so (Nelson). Moreover, these companies faced numerous challenges in regards to supply chain management and distribution. Depicting how global chocolate companies attempted to gain commercial success in China highlights the intricate nature of developing into an emerging market. This also enhances our understanding of the strategies these companies will embrace as they expand further.

Gift Giving – A Cultural Gateway

Culinary traditions were very different in China and chocolate companies were challenged to find a meaningful way of introducing chocolate to the Chinese market (Allen 23). The big five chocolate companies recognized that gift giving was universal throughout China and could serve as the cultural gateway for introducing chocolate. With this is mind, chocolate companies targeted their marketing efforts toward affluent Chinese consumers and developed elaborate packaging designs to appeal to this consumer base (Allen 25).

Although many affluent Chinese consumers were willing to justify the expense of chocolate for gift giving, chocolate companies recognized that self-consumption could generate even greater profits across a variety of social classes. In established markets in other countries, self-consumption accounts for approximately 90 percent of total sales (Allen 26). In China in the 90s however, gift giving accounted for more than 50 percent of total sales, thus highlighting enormous potential for expansion into the self-consumption market! China’s economy grew substantially in the 1990s and consumers subsequently started having more pocket money. In addition, young Chinese started familiarizing themselves with Western culture and food. These social and economic changes conveniently facilitated the introduction of chocolate to the mass market in China (Allen 27).

Mars’s Master Strategy

Today, the American company Mars is the leading chocolate business in China and a number of factors allowed Mars to get ahead of its competitors. First, Mars introduced the Dove chocolate bar, the earliest chocolate product aimed for self-consumption (Allen 200). This bar allowed Mars to establish legitimacy and build loyalty among young Chinese people (Allen 21). Moreover, Mars has embraced an aggressive expansion strategy of manufacturing in China along with aggressive media and marketing initiatives primarily to build up its Dove and Snickers brand (Lannes and Blasberg)

Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 6.59.42 PM
Mars was the official sponsor and exclusive supplier of chocolate bars during the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, representing one of many successful recent marketing initiatives.

In addition to recognizing the value of branding, Mars has also undergone some organizational changes that lowered distribution costs. The recent acquisition of the gum company Wrigley’s, resulted in the formation of the leading retail confectionary company and gave Mars extensive distribution and sales operations networks (Allen 211-212). This recent merger ultimately allowed Mars to strengthen the company’s position as the leading chocolate company in China.

This campaign, which encourages consumers to create a love art piece by using Dove’s boxes, went viral on social media, exemplifying the success of Mars’s marketing efforts.

Looking Ahead

Today, the Chinese chocolate market represents a relatively small share of global chocolate consumption. However, the country’s sales potential is huge, given that a larger proportion of the country’s population is becoming potential chocolate consumers (Allen 202; Cohen). During the last three decades, the “Big Five” companies have built brand awareness and it seems unlikely that other global chocolate companies will be able to break into the market (Allen 22). Although local Chinese competitors have lower operating costs and can thus set lower prices, it seems unlikely that these companies are an immense threat to the “Big Five” (Allen 213).

China’s market has enormous growth potential and there are two major strategies that chocolate companies can adopt to strengthen their position. First, chocolate companies should sustain business in first-tier cities and fine-tune sales and marketing efforts (Allen 202; Nelson). Secondly, chocolate companies should consider expanding to second-tier cities (Allen 202; Nelson). Supermarkets represent a new exciting distribution channel, but it will be imperative to address challenges in regards to infrastructure and product innovation to respond to the preferences and price-point of the new consumer base.

To wrap up, there is seemingly no simple recipe for success but companies that are sensitive to the varied demands of the Chinese consumers are more likely to unleash the full potential of the market.



Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association, 2010. Print.

Cohen, Luc. “China Chocolate Market Seen Growing to $4.3bln by 2019-Hershey.” Reuters. 18 February 2015. Web. 11 March 2016.

Lannes, Bruno, and John Blasberg. “Gold Medal Brands.” Bain & Company Insights. July 1 2008. Web. 11 March. 2016.

Nelson, Christina. “Chocolate Fortunes.” China Business Review. July 1 2008. Web. 11 March 2016.

Media Sources

Chocolate candy hearts. Digital Image. http://torange.biz/16365.html. Web. 11 March. 2016

Chocolate Heart. Digital Image. http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=20869&picture=chocolate-heart. Web. 11 March. 2016.

Kestrel Lee. “Dove Chocolate’s Valentine’s Day Campaign”. Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 9 January 2012. Web. March 11. 2016.

Snickers hospitality Team. Digital Image. http://www.sportsworld.co.uk/clients/snickers-beijing-olympics-2008. Web. 11 March. 2016



A Growing Taste for Chocolate: An Analysis of Chocolate Displays in CVS and FamilyMart

Globalization has created incredible challenges for modern marketing, as companies must win over new markets that feature the unique tastes and desires of a different society. When we take a look at how chocolate is marketed and sold in both American and Chinese drugstores, we can analyze how the stores display the chocolate products. Through this analysis, we can also realize how those reflect the social perception of chocolate in each country, in turn directing how those changing perceptions turn around and drive the marketing, thus creating one large feedback loop. In this analysis, we will examine the displays that sell chocolate in one Harvard Square branch of CVS and compare that with chocolate displays in a parallel store in Shanghai, China called FamilyMart.

Mass-produced chocolate in CVS "Premium Chocolate" display in CVS

To set the scene for our argument, we will begin with a basic overview of the two stores and their respective displays. CVS is the second largest pharmacy chain the USA, after Walgreens; in Harvard Square alone, there are two branches opened. Taking a look at the display of chocolate in newly opened branch on JFK Street, we can see that chocolate is sold throughout the store, with one primary area for most of the chocolate being sold. The standard bulk chocolate is sold clumped together in one aisle, with various other candies and sweets, while the “Premium Chocolate” display is placed at the end of that aisle.

Bulk chocolate bins in FamilyMart FamilyMart logo Chocolate on shelves in FamilyMart

Most readers will be familiar with CVS, but not so much FamilyMart. FamilyMart is in fact a Japanese convenience store that has flourished in China, where there are currently 1,235 stores in operation, and it can be considered a Chinese equivalent to CVS. In this Shanghai franchise of FamilyMart, we can see that chocolate is also being sold in two sections, but with significant differences in strategy. Instead of choosing bags of prepackaged chocolates, customers can instead choose their desired amount of snack-sized mass-produced chocolates (like Snickers, M&Ms, or Chinese brands) and buy that amount for a price based on the weight of chocolate. These bins stretch down the entire aisle; the shelves on either side hold the prepackaged gift-type chocolates, bars, and even displays devoted to entire brands.

With the scene set for the two drugstores in the United States and in China, we can begin to examine the specific strategies used to create those displays and how they reflect each country’s habits and perceptions of chocolate. There are two important aspects of these displays that we can focus on: the chocolate and its packaging, as well as the context of the displays themselves.

The assortment available in the regular chocolate aisle of CVS is what one would expect of any American retailer, with all the “big chocolate” players trying to assert their presence. Often, there will be yellow stickers to indicate special deals resulting in astoundingly low prices associated with a huge variety of products. This can only speak to the power of multinational corporations, which is reflected in their ability to produce and distribute millions of pounds of chocolate worldwide. This ability, as detailed by anthropologist Jack Goody in Industrial Food, is mainly due to improvements in mechanization and transportation in the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s. Coupled with this technical revolution of mass production was the increased volume of trade, and as a result, retailers are able to provide many of the same products worldwide. As a result, in the Chinese counterpart to CVS, we can see many of the same goods: M&Ms, Hershey Kisses, Ferrero Rocher. In that sense, the variety of goods that companies are trying to market do not vary much, and so they do not have to create entirely new marketing strategies for a completely different set of products.

However, in the clash of cultures that is “East Meets West”, companies must tackle the task that comes with marketing to Chinese consumers. China is one of the most famous cases of growing globalization and capitalism: reforms in the 1980s shifted the Chinese economic structure from communalism to a market-based economy, and according to the World Bank, over 500 million people have been pulled above the poverty line with GDP growth rate averaging around 10% yearly. With this quickly growing economy and a population of 1.3 billion, China became the popular target for the big chocolate companies. Access to this market has not been easy for many of the companies, and these companies have had to come up with new strategies from those used in the United States to break into the Chinese market.

Thus, when we take a look at the packaging, we can see obvious differences that show that these companies are reacting towards the different perceptions that Chinese people hold about chocolate. The first main difference is that in CVS, the bulk chocolate is already packaged in bags of about ten to twelve ounces for consumers to buy. As mass production become increasingly easier for companies to use, the West saw that “choices to be made about eating…are made…by what are perceived as time constraints” (Mintz 202). Americans began prioritizing the convenience of food and snacks, and so these packs are ready-made with a variety of products for customers to grab and go.

Hersheys Spring Assortment Mars Halloween Assortment

In American society, the “experience of time…is often one of an insoluble shortage, and this perception may be essential to…the principle of ever-expanded consumption”(Mintz 202). As people in America feel increasingly pressed for time due to the pressure to do more and be more successful, these conveniently packages have unconsciously driven the mass consumption of chocolates, which in turns fuels the support for selling chocolate in such method. In other words, the packaging in CVS showcases the American impulse of buying chocolate on a whim, often to self-indulge themselves with large quantities of chocolate, which only reinforces that particular marketing strategy.

Contrast this to the packaging in FamilyMart, which reflects the more careful and thoughtful selection of Chinese consumers. Customers instead get to scoop their own bags and combinations of chocolates. This Chinese strategy of selling snack-sized chocolates has a much more practical air, in that customers can pick exactly how much of what they want to eat without the trouble of having to buy at least ten or so ounces of it. This process of selecting their chocolate and having it weighed, similar to how one would buy chocolate or candy from a specialty store in the United States, requires more upfront investment in the purchase, perhaps due to an underlying purpose of gift giving.

Gift giving itself is an act that requires much more thought and preparation, and the importance of gifts is a Chinese cultural code that successful companies have recognized while marketing in China. While the bulk chocolate can be catered towards someone’s particular tastes for chocolate, other products on the FamilyMart shelves can be seen packaged very ornately to leave a positive impression upon receipt. The M&Ms are packaged in the fun shape of the M&M mascot and even with a gift inside, while the Dove chocolate has been placed in a respectable tin. In fact, Mars has adopted this tactic of appropriate packaging rather well, and the commercial below is just one example that reflects Mars’ overall strategy of emphasizing the appropriateness of Dove chocolate for a gift.

[Chinese Kinder ad]

This commercial is the second of a two-part series of ads that focuses on the same actor and actress. The smitten man brings chocolate to the door of the woman he pursued in the first installment, and gives it as a gift of his season’s greetings. She shares the chocolate with her friends and then coyly asks him to bring another box just for her, and so the commercial ends on a promising note. We could also examine this ad for the way it plays into stereotypical gender roles and associations with chocolate, but will instead keep the focus on the action of gift giving. This ad targets the gift giving aspect of Chinese culture incredibly well, giving the audience positive images of love and associating that with Dove chocolate. As Professor Martin discussed in lecture, Mars has been able to win over the hearts of Chinese consumers more successfully than the other companies, simply by showing a distinguished knowledge of and dedication to Chinese consumers.

After analyzing the product availability and packaging in each of the stores, we can also look at the particular placement of the displays themselves within the store. As described earlier, CVS has most of its chocolate in one main aisle with the “Premium Chocolate” display labeled as such, and at the end of that aisle. This has several effects, the first of which is the mere placement of more chocolate at the end of one aisle. Because customers only pick an aisle if they know the product is in that aisle, they are more likely to walk past all the ends of the aisles. Having chocolate on the end of the aisle thus promotes its visibility in the store and entices people to pick up some “premium” chocolate, in this case various bars and packages of Ghiradelli, Lindt, and Ferrero Rocher. In the case where they prefer other kinds of chocolate, they have still been distracted by the mere image of chocolate and are then pulled into the aisle in search of the chocolate they want instead. In this particular CVS, and most American stores in general, there chocolate and candy even at the counter, which has the same effect of distracting the customer and relies again on the impulse and self-indulgence snacking tendencies that Americans tend to display.

Counter of CVS selling chocolate snacks

This snacking tendency actually has been seen as a historical trend away from full and separate meals, to smaller snacks in between main mealtimes. The French anthropologist Fischler, “appalled by the way “snacking” has supplanted meal taking…raises questions about the trend toward desocialized, aperiodic eating” (Mintz 212). This tendency is so common and has become so ingrained in our diets that it aligned perfectly with Western packaging of chocolate in convenient grab-and-go sizes. Mintz further goes on to say that today one might sense the “quickening of such diffusion, a speeding up, even in large, ancient societies that were apparently once resistant to such processes, such as China and Japan”.

In FamilyMart too, there were small packets of chocolate at the register for people to glance at and perhaps buy to snack on. However, the mass of the chocolate in FamilyMart was deep within the aisles of the store. The pictures have shown the large self-scoops of mass-produced chocolate, as well as the shelf displays of more nicely packaged chocolate. These displays were on either side of the bulk chocolate, and although it makes sense at first to group all the chocolate together, seems to have other effects. In order to look at those chocolates, customers must literally turn their backs on the bins in order to look at the shelves. This causes a literal separation between the two types of packaged chocolate, which directly contrasts with the placement in the American display. The chocolate in CVS at the end of the aisle drew the customer in, whereas the bins are what will catch the Chinese consumer’s eyes and potentially keep them there and cause them to be completely distracted from the contents of the shelves.

How then, can chocolate companies be so successful with the ornate packaging in FamilyMart that is actually rarely seen in generic drugstores like CVS? This apparent contradiction can be explained through the perception of chocolate in China and the nature of the consumers’ purchases. We have also explained the impulse buys that mark American purchases, and contrasted that with the gift-oriented purchases of the Chinese. The separation of the shelves and the bins push this explanation even further, in that Chinese consumers must truly have given genuine thought to the idea of purchasing chocolate as a gift rather than whimsically deciding to buy it for someone after seeing it. After all, the likelihood that they look at the shelves is very low when the large bins of chocolate capture their eyes first. Even when consumers buy chocolate as gifts in CVS, it still may be marked by impulsive tendencies merely because their thoughts have been primed by the image of chocolate. The placement of certain chocolate on the shelves was further emphasized by flashy displays. Of particular mention were the following two displays for Ferrero Rocher and Kinder.

Ferrero Rocher display in FamilyMart Kinder display in FamilyMart

These displays were of particular interest due to the fact that Mars has been so successful relative to the other chocolate companies in China. Ferrero, another of the big five companies, owns these two brands. As a matter of fact, Ferrero has carved out its own “niche in China by taking the path of least resistance” and successfully employing tactics aimed at the Chinese culture of gift giving. In Chocolate Fortunes, Lawrence Allen tells of how Ferrero “successfully sold the Chinese people on its delicate, foil-wrapped hazelnut treats”, using its foreign and exclusive image to promote the value of its chocolate as a luxury gift (Wharton article). Thus, placed in this historical context, the display in FamilyMart of Ferrero with its predominantly gift-oriented goods and personalized spotlights makes complete sense.

With this explanation, the other display of Kinder chocolate then seems somewhat of an anomaly, since the packaging looks too simple to mark the goods as gifts. We often do not see Kinder chocolate in the United States; the CVS in this comparison certainly did not sell Kinder products. The reason for its presence and marketing is in fact driven by another aspect of Chinese culture – that of the value placed in children. The marketing of this product was likely developed through the social valuation of children in Chinese culture, and the parental desire to raise successful children. In the following ad, the mother has prepared Kinder chocolate for the children when they say that they want to eat something tasty. The chocolate is further described as having the nutritional value of a large glass of milk within the bar, and the children are shown playing outside happy and healthy. These images really draw on the parents’ desires to have similarly happy and healthy children, and so Ferrero demonstrates truly effective marketing that plays on aspects of Chinese culture that Mars does not.

Following the examination of chocolate displays in an American CVS and a Chinese FamilyMart, we can see that both the variety of goods, their packaging, as well as the environment of their displays all reflect the societal perceptions of chocolate. These in turn show how each culture has particular values that are played upon by chocolate companies in order for them to successfully sell their product; and in doing so, these chocolate companies further reinforce the same habits that then continue to draw sales of chocolate. Yet in the Chinese market, we can see two divisive approaches that sell chocolate: one approach sells chocolate in customized bulk purchases of snack-sized chocolate, while the other approach leads to elaborate packaging the name of gift giving. These approaches, although both effective thus far, are signs that Mars has perhaps a slippery hold on the Chinese market for chocolate. There remains still an enormous amount of potential in a market of this size, and through the continued, careful analysis of Chinese culture, any company can emerge successful in the years to come.

Works Cited


A Rendition: “Chocolate that I enjoy. just because it’s good.”

Pushing back against stereotypes of race and sexuality as portrayed in various chocolate marketing campaigns proves critical in de-sensitizing the chocolate product from its social construction generated over time either intentionally by producer desire to maximize market penetration or unintentionally by consumer-driven habits. Within the social atmosphere of chocolate creation and consumption, there exists a feedback between preferences of consumers and goods delivered by producers, such that it becomes difficult to exact causality of whether producers drive consumer tastes or whether consumer tastes drive how producers sell their products. However, what is clear through visual evidence in marketing is that chocolate marketers in their effort to increase market share have made explicit their use of both sexuality and race as tools to socially construct and symbolically interact the word ‘chocolate’ with a variety of contexts including the overpowering attraction of women to masculine sexuality and the use of chocolate as a “euphemism for race” (Robertson, 1-7). One can best see this theme through a 2007, still-ad Dove Chocolate campaign, shown below, with the tagline: “Six Pack that melts a girl’s heart. Dove chocolate,” emphasizing themes of both sexuality and race associated with the sale of chocolate. This post will reveal the underlying tensions of sexuality and race in the context of chocolate marketing using this Dove advertisement as evidence and will present a rendition of this ad that pushes back on the themes evident in the original.

Dove's Original Ad

In terms of sexuality, Emma Robertson documents historical contexts in which chocolate manufacturers targeted women over time. In the 1930s, chocolate manufacturers targeted mothers who had a duty to give the best food to their children, such that advertisers even launched a “Special Mothers Campaign.” In the 1940s and 1950s, chocolate marketing tilted towards housewives, where the woman had responsibility to provide for her spouse, such that if she didn’t purchase certain brands, like Rowntree Cocoa, she would be viewed as “ignorant.” However, only in the later part of the 20th century did chocolate marketing highlight “courtship rituals” and the romanticization of chocolate. Chocolate manufacturers began to use sexuality of women as a descriptor for their products. For example, campaigns emphasized the “sweetness” of women as advertised in Dairy Box’s marketing efforts, as shown below (Robertson, 26-34). In a different light, Leissle writes how Divine Chocolate used African women, dressed up in classy dresses as saleswomen, as means to lure the cosmopolitan consumer (Lesslie, 121-123). In the Dove advertisement, one sees how the campaign targets women propelled by masculine affinity in particular. The chocolate manufacturer, by displaying an image of a black man’s protruding chest and abs, seeks to lure women into buying the “six pack” more so than the chocolate itself. Consumers are purchasing a socially constructed symbol of sexuality, driven foremost by their craving for the muscular male body that seduces them into purchasing Dove Chocolate. The top-down lighting further emphasizes this, with the man’s abs melting in the light, giving the allure of melting Dove chocolate. The advertisement additionally doesn’t even show the face of the man or the personality of his character. It simply reveals a flexing male in his objectified, stereotypical ‘fit’ body that no woman could resist. In contrast with earlier ads depicting women, aimed at luring housewives and mothers, and later ads tying women to product flavors, this ad aims at attracting women by arbitraging their ‘irrationality’ when it comes to men to buy chocolate. It is on this premise that Dove leverages sexuality to drive sales of its product.

Dairy Box Ad With Women Featured

In terms of race, this ad plays on earlier themes suggested by Robertson that use chocolate in association with “blackness.” Roald Dahl in Charlie and Chocolate Factory originally depicted the Oompa Loompas as dark-skinned, only for them to become “rosy white” characters in a later rendition. Rowntree had furthermore emphasized the idea of black men as “entertainers,” another means of selling to white-middle class individuals (Robertson, 1-7). Chocolate’s imperial colonial context clearly played a role in some consumers’ purchasing preferences, as seen by consumers’ blind attraction to the Belgian “chocolate hands.” In this way, historically, various marketing campaigns played on themes associating chocolate with “blackness.” Our Dove ad clearly displays this with the company deciding to use a toned black male, whose bulging abs look like melting pieces of chocolate. There is an allure for a ‘piece’ of his abs just as there is an allure for chocolate pieces. The dark brown color of their ad, even the ad background overwhelms the faint white letters spelling out its tagline. Race plays a vital role here with Dove tying the chocolate product with black masculinity, tempting women to purchase their product.

Dove Ad Rendition

Our revised ad sought to push back against both these stereotypes of sexuality and race. In terms of sexuality, we show an average, normal white male, who doesn’t possess a “fit” body by any stereotypical measure. Simply observing an image of his body does not elicit a visceral reaction from women to buy chocolate. In fact, it may even serve as a disincentive, since his body doesn’t represent the epitome of masculinity. In terms of race, we choose a white male that bears no color resemblance to the actual chocolate product. There is no lighting effect, nor any melting abs of chocolate pieces. Our advertisement uses direct lighting and no special effects, keeping the intentions simple and direct to the product itself. Our tagline pushes back against Dove’s reading, “Chocolate that I enjoy. just because it’s good.” There is nothing more, just the taste of the chocolate product itself. Lastly, the original Dove ad emphasizes the black male body, relegating the Dove chocolate bar to a small, thumbnail-like image at the bottom of the ad, visible only after the body itself. Our ad makes the Dove chocolate bar clearly visible and pronounced, emphasizing the physical product. In this light, our ad de-sensitizes the chocolate product itself from the social construction furthered by chocolate advertisers, thereby pushing back on chocolate stereotypes and restoring the genuineness of buying chocolate itself.

Works Cited

Kristy Leissle (2012). “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Fefashioning Africa in Divine

Chocolate Advertisements,” Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139.

Mars, Inc., Dove Chocolate (2007). “Six Pack that melts a girl’s heart. Dove chocolate.”

Robertson, Emma. (2009). Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.

Rowntree’s. (1957). 13th Dairy Box sheet poster. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/0/20171385&gt;.


More of the Chocolate, Less of the Sexuality

We have all seen commercials on television that play heavily on stereotypes, especially those regarding gender and romance. According to the commercial advertisements of our generation, women are obsessed with chocolate, and thus chocolate can be the key to a successful heterosexual romance. Such stereotyped themes are the chocolate industry’s attempts at luring consumers to purchase their products by typecasting buyers as certain kinds of consumers in order to “position us in relation to that product as gendered, classed, and raced beings,” (Robertson 19). This is certainly the case in the Dove chocolate-covered cranberry commercial depicting a woman seductively leaving clues around a library, so that a man can ultimately discover her eating chocolate.   The implication here is that consuming the Dove chocolate can allow women the opportunity to experience her fantasies of seducing a man. By remedying the gendered relationship, location, verbiage, and slogan used by Dove in the commercial, we created an image that serves as an effective advertisement for Dove chocolate without relying on stereotypes of heterosexual romance and sexual desires.  

This is the new advertisement for Dove chocolate that we created to eliminate the themes of sexuality and romance from the original commercial.  This image still advertises the Dove product, without relying on those stereotypes.
This is the new advertisement for Dove chocolate that we created to eliminate the themes of sexuality and romance from the original commercial. This image still advertises the Dove product, without relying on those stereotypes.

In the original advertisement by Dove, we see a woman romantically courting a man through a library. This heterosexual romance builds through a clue seeking scavenger hunt, where the ultimate treasure is the woman seductively eating Dove chocolate. Such images of heterosexual romance are typical in chocolate commercials, and are problematic because they both assume heterosexuality and highlight an unequal status between men and women. While in this specific advertisement, the woman is courting the man and not the other way around, we still are faced with the dilemma of a gendered image: “Consumed as part of courtship, or within the institution of marriage, chocolate could reinforce… unequal relations between men and women,” (Robertson 32-33). Our advertisement chooses to move away from the gendered stereotype of romance within a heterosexual couple by focusing on a father-son relationship between two males instead. Where the original commercial uses the hunting of clues as a courting device, our image depicts a father sending his son on a scavenger hunt. In this way, we place less social pressure on the chocolate as necessary for romance and characteristic of heterosexuality, and depict the product as something enjoyable among family.

Another significant element of the original advertisement is the location, as the setting is a library. Libraries are typically associated with the stereotype of an opportunity to pursue something in a mischievous or inappropriate environment. The unsuitable environment of a library is countered through coupling with chocolate, as chocolate is commonly depicted as a vehicle through which women can pursue their fantasies: “Chocolate… appears as a way of practicing safe sin,” (Moss and Badenoch 117). To move away from the association of chocolate with guilty pleasures, our image depicts the scavenger hunt as occurring in a park, where the son can search for the Dove chocolate behind leaves and trees. Using the park as the location supplants the theme of guilty pleasures with the trope of good, clean fun, which is a less controversial and more accessible message to portray in a commercial.

This is an image of a Dove wrapper from their individually wrapped chocolates.  Note how the use of the word "temptation" implies the seductive relationship to chocolate.
This is an image of a Dove wrapper from their individually wrapped chocolates. Note how the use of the word “temptation” implies the seductive relationship to chocolate.

In addition, through the duration of the original Dove advertisement, the woman uses clues to lure in the man. These clues are the phrases “mystery”, “take the leap”, “free your mind”, “live your fantasies”, and “heating up”. All of these phrases both refer to trying Dove’s unique chocolate covered fruit product, while also hinting to an underlying tone of seduction and romance. Using such phrases and quotes to elicit a romantic response is characteristic of Dove chocolate, known for including seductive expressions on the insides of their individually packaged chocolate wrappers. To move away from the stereotypes of romance and attraction, the image that we created also has verbiage that serves as clues to help the son find the Dove chocolate: “stop and smell the roses”, “fun under the sun”, and “down to earth delicious”. All of these clues are hints to finding the chocolate, while also describing and depicting the chocolate-eating experience itself without relying on the images of seduction and romance.

Finally, at the end of the advertisement, the slogan “Choose a Pleasure Less Ordinary” appears on the screen. This tagline serves a dual purpose, as it applies to both the less ordinary character of chocolate with fruit inside and the less ordinary circumstance of romance kindling through a scavenger hunt in a library. We chose to incorporate the slogan “Make Every Day Extraordinary” to still serve the purpose of an advertisement by highlighting both the extraordinary nature of the chocolate and its ability to be used for everyday enjoyment, such as a scavenger hunt in the park. Dropping the word “pleasure” from the original slogan also alleviates the tone of sexuality from the advertisement and makes it more broadly relevant.

As we can see, images of chocolate consumption as associated with heterosexual romance and sexual desires are common in advertising, especially in this Dove chocolate-covered cranberry commercial. However, when we remove the gendered romance, the inappropriate environment, the seductive verbiage, and the sexual slogan, we are still left with an effective advertisement and much less of the controversy. With that said, the new advertisement, while avoiding tropes of gender, seduction, and romance, positions itself within stereotypes of class and family structure. The scavenger hunt between a white father-son pair implicitly situates chocolate within the space of families characterized by a present father, and a father with the luxury of time to spend in a park with his son implies a degree of financial stability. While creating one image to combat sexualized stereotypes in a chocolate advertisement does not eliminate the trend altogether, and still remains susceptible to other stereotypes, it does show we are capable of interacting with advertising that does not necessarily impose classifications of gender and sexuality upon its audience in order to sell a product.


Digital image. Thefunnylife. WordPress, n.d. Web. <https://thefunnylife.wordpress.com/&gt;.

DOVE Fruit Scavenger Hunt. YouTube. DOVE Chocolate. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svks7H3eB3Y&gt;.

Moss, Sarah, and Alexander Badenoch. Chocolate: A Global History. London: Reaktion, 2009. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.


Sex Sells: Sex and the Objectification of Women in Chocolate Advertisements

Chocolate advertisements are prime examples of intersectionality, which refers to “the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relations and subject formations” (McCall, 2005). They publically display various stereotypes of race, gender, and class and shed light on which groups chocolate companies target as consumers. Using a 2015 commercial for Dove cranberries dipped in dark chocolate, I focus on the portrayal of gender and sexuality, though race and class are thematized in the ad as well. We created an original ad for Dove chocolate that depicts a father-son relationship in an effort to subvert the existing ad’s focus on a woman’s sensual enjoyment of chocolate and its depiction of chocolate as a substitution for sex.

The 2015 Dove ad (above) takes place in a library, and it portrays a man participating in a scavenger hunt set up by a woman, who appears to be the librarian. The woman holds a bag of the Dove chocolate cranberries and gazes seductively as she watches the man solve her puzzle. He finds that his ultimate destination is a well-hidden table, where the woman sits alone, eating the chocolate and ready to share it with him. The language used in the clues (“mystery,” “take the leap,” “free your mind,” “live your fantasies,” “heating up”) and tagline (“choose a pleasure less ordinary”) is loaded with sexual innuendo. The clues prime the viewers to expect that the woman is going to reward the man with sex once he finds her, but it turns out that she wants him to eat Dove chocolate with her. This set-up combined with the tagline make it clear that Dove is promoting its product as an equally pleasurable alternative to sex. The imagery used reinforces this idea. There are consecutive close-up shots of the woman’s mouth and the man’s face, suggesting a carnal desire between the two. The shadowy and dim lighting used throughout further contributes to this romantic ambiance.

This message is common in Dove advertisements. One still image ad (above) from 2008 for Dove pure silk bars features a woman’s face in the throes of ecstasy (eyes closed, faint smile) with her neck and shoulders covered in chocolate-colored silk. The tagline is, “Now it can last longer than you can resist. Unwrap. Indulge. Repeat,” suggesting that eating this three-portion chocolate bar is a preferable alternative to sex, since it can be savored for longer. Using this as a marketing tool dates back to the 1930s, when women were told in Aero advertisements, “When you resist the urge to eat chocolate you are ignoring one of Nature’s most serious warnings” (Robertson, 35). Eating chocolate was seen as a socially acceptable and safe way to satiate women’s heterosexual desires. Many years later, the core of chocolate companies’ approach to gaining female consumers has remained virtually unchanged.
Even though both a man and a woman are featured in the 2015 ad, the manner in which they are depicted differs. The woman is the chief seductress, who has orchestrated the whole thing, while the man is innocently reading a newspaper when he gets caught up in her scheme. The man gives wide-eyed looks, while the woman has a knowing and mischievous look in her eyes. There are multiple close-ups of the woman’s face as she seductively pops a chocolate covered cranberry into her mouth and chews it, closing her eyes in ecstasy. In the last second of the ad, a long shot of the man and woman at the table shows him bringing a chocolate to his mouth and smiling sweetly, but the ad cuts out before we see him eat it and a close-up of his consumption is never shown. The woman holds the bag of chocolates throughout the ad, and they appear to be her possession, while she is the man’s possession. Even though she created the puzzle, the ad shows her as if she were an object to be caught by the man.
Throughout the history of cinema, women have been depicted as passive objects to be looked at, while males have been depicted as active bearers of look, a concept that Laura Mulvey termed “the male gaze” (Mulvey, 203). The 2015 Dove ad is no exception; the woman is the man’s prize for successfully following the clues and locating her. It is as if the woman is not only being pursued by the man, but that she consciously set herself up as a prize for the man to attain. She takes pleasure in performing the gender role that the “male gaze” has created for females. In this way, the ad utilizes women’s internalization of their roles as sexualized objects to appeal to female consumers.

Dove Scavenger Hunt Ad

In the ad that we created in response (above), we removed all sexual undertones. We did not market chocolate as a component of heterosexual romance, but instead as a way to “Make every day extraordinary” regardless of the context of consumption. We chose to depict a father and son in our ad to depart from the pervasive portrayal of females as chocolate obsessed and deriving an orgasmic pleasure from eating it. To parallel the real Dove ad, we placed the father and son in a scavenger hunt scenario, but instead of using language full of sexual references to sell the product, our clues (“Down to earth delicious,” “Stop and smell the roses,” and “Fun under the sun”) appeal to happiness, naturally tasty food, and enjoying life. In an effort to stay away from the objectification of our ad subjects, we chose not to show the father or son eating the chocolate. In all likelihood, our ad is not edgy or sexy enough to capture the attention of real world consumers and entice them to buy our product. It appears that profitable ads and ads abstaining from the exploitation of gender, race, and class stereotypes are often mutually exclusive.
Works Cited:

DOVE Chocolate. “DOVE® Fruit Scavenger Hunt (30 sec spot).” Online video clip. YouTube. YouTube, 26 Jan. 2015. Web. 6 April 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svks7H3eB3Y

Dove pure silk bar 2008 advertising image. Web. 6 April 2015. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg

McCall, Leslie. “The Complexity of Intersectionality.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. 30.3 (2005): 1771-1800. Print.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Narrative, Apparatus, Ideology. Ed. Philip Rosen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. 198-209. Print.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women and empire: A social and cultural history. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print


A Little Too Foreign: The Spread of Chocolate in China

Thirty years ago, if one asked a random Chinese person about chocolate, the response would probably have be a quizzical stare, for chocolate was unknown in the Chinese vocabulary. Fast forward to today, where many Chinese regard chocolate as a delightful exotic treat, and brands that Westerners know and love make billions of dollars per year in China. But chocolate’s status as a foreign luxury is both its blessing and its curse. On the one hand, this image has proven most successful in enticing Chinese consumers, but on the other hand, it embodies distance. Enormous growth notwithstanding, chocolate still falls far from winning the hearts and tastebuds of China the way it has in the West.

Chocolate’s radical introduction into the Chinese diet and evolving image as an exotic curiosity occurred was driven by the dedicated efforts of large chocolate corporations. Beginning in the 80s, the Big Five global chocolate producers–Hershey, Nestle, Cadbury, Mars, and Ferrero Rocher–each experimented with different chocolate products and marketing tactics (Allen).

Bringing chocolate to China was not an easy task, for in terms of food, social structure, wealth, and market structure, China differed radically from Europe or America in ways that ill-suited the chocolate market. First, sugar appears only sparingly in Chinese cuisine, and dairy was a recent introduction. Second, infrastructure for chocolate production and distribution was lacking: transportation beyond the vicinity of major cities was slow, and refrigeration was absent, so in hot summer months, chocolate melted and spoiled easily. Third, most Chinese were still far poorer than their Western counterparts and had neither freedom to nor the habit of indulging in impulse buys of confections (Allen). Marketing tactics that succeeded in Europe and America were not transferrable.

The companies that did not understand and adapt to the above issues flopped. For example, Cadbury tried to market half-pound Dairy Milk Bars, not realizing that Chinese only tolerated sweets in bite-sized portions. Further, their use of local Chinese milk to cut costs made Chinese-produced Cadbury bars smell and taste somewhat cheesy, to the distaste of customers. Similarly, Nestle first found that the Chinese did not appreciate KitKats and then reduced ingredient quality to lower costs, dissatisfying the few KitKat customers they had and compromising their reputation for producing high-quality foods  (Wharton).

In contrast, the companies that adapted to Chinese ways could capture significant shares of the Chinese market. The first to enter, Ferrero Rocher noted that the Chinese tended to gift  sold their signature gold-wrapped truffles at a high price, imported from quality-controlled European factories. Noting that the Chinese tended to gift expensive foreign products, they marketed their product as a foreign luxury, pricey but perfect for special-occasion gifts (Allen).

A larger success story came from Mars’s Dove line. Introduced in China in the 1990s, Dove chocolates were bite-sized, smoother-tasting, and more romantically packaged than the average grab-bag chocolate. Reflecting its look and feel, its prices were on the high end of affordable. Essentially, Dove perfectly tread the line between luxury and everyday indulgence; it was worthy of being gifted but also fit for a random treat, like a Ferrero Rocher for the commoner. Marketed as such, Dove’s popularity swelled for good. Today, Dove captures nearly 40% of China’s chocolate market and is enjoying 50% growth per year (Wharton). Indeed, as longtime Hershey and Nestle executive Lawrence Allen writes, Dove became “the preferred chocolate taste with China’s first generation of chocolate consumers” (Allen 202).

The following Dove chocolate advertisement, aired on Chinese television, summarizes the image that not only Dove but chocolate in general has taken in China. A well-dressed girl waits at an expensive establishment; when her date calls, she coquettishly asks him to bring her a Dove bar. The advertisement closes with the girl blissfully enrobed by the chocolate. The message is clear: chocolate is romantic, seductive, classy, and overwhelmingly luscious.

Meanwhile, chocolate’s exotic image means that domestic producers have had less success, struggling to convince consumers that they can properly produce these fine foreign luxuries (Allen 216). Leconte, the largest domestic producer, speaks volumes on their home page:

Following the European standard to prudently select the best ‘Golden Cocoa’ and applying the traditional chocolate making techniques from Switzerland, we provide customers with classic chocolate of pleasant cocoa flavor. The baking, grinding, fine grinding, blending and all other procedures are using to enrich the aroma of the chocolate which give our consumers a pure European taste.

To Chinese consumers, chocolate is a fine exotic treat, and true chocolate should be produced the European way, not by a Chinese company.

That being said, the problems that chocolate companies confronted before still continue to hamper chocolate’s popularity. Over the last decades, the economy has grown explosively, and many of the infrastructure problems have diminished, but still a billion people live in poverty inland. Moreover, the taste problem remains: many Chinese, particularly older generations unaccustomed to sugar, just don’t like sweets that much. Even among confections, they generally prefer light and familiar fruit and tea flavors. Indeed, Chinese bakeries produce light, airy sponge cakes, possibly with slightly-sweetened whipped cream and fruity fillings, not brownies and rich buttery cakes of America. At the end of the day, most Chinese still have no access to chocolate, and those who do want only small portions, for it is too strong, too dark, too foreign to their palate to be consumed in large quantities.

A typical birthday cake from an Asian bakery is an airy sponge cake, with fruit filling and lightly sweetened whipped cream, much less dense than the buttery frosting-laden cakes common in America.

Thus chocolate has a long ways to go before it can be called a natural preference of China. It possibly never will. But over time, as China continues its rapid growth, and as a globally interconnected world becomes all that people know, purchasing patterns and culinary tastes will undoubtedly shift, and a multicultural palate may become the norm.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association, 2010. Print.

Dove, Chocolate, China TV commercial Ad. YouTube. N.p., 20 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eavBWhVLn30>.

Hong Kong sponge cake with fruit and cream filling and whipped cream frosting. Expat Gourmand: An Expat Gourmand’s Adventures in Hong Kong. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://www.bobturf.org/jeannie/images/HoiKingHeen_BirthdayCakeSlice.jpg>.

“Leconte.” COFCO. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://www.cofco.com/en/brand/products.aspx?id=134>.

“The Bitter and the Sweet: How Five Companies Competed to Bring Chocolate to China.” Knowledge@Wharton. N.p., 12 Jan. 2011. Web. 12 Mar. 2015. <http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-bitter-and-the-sweet-how-five-companies-competed-to-bring-chocolate-to-china/>.


Chocolate and Stick Method: Using Chocolate to Control, Manipulate and Treat Irrational Behavior

Since its rapid rise in the 1930s, chocolate advertising has been wrapped up in a variety of problematic representations of class, gender, and race. While the world experienced great change over the last eight decades, chocolate companies have largely failed to substantively update their advertising content, resulting in a commercial market saturated with similar, and often inaccurate, strains of messaging.

Stereotyped depictions of women’s sensual or addictive relationship with chocolate, chocolate as a luxury item, chocolate as a staple of heteronormative white relationships, and chocolate consumers  eclipsing producers abound, giving rise to parodies such as women laughing alone with chocolate.

With growing criticism of such representations in chocolate advertising, some marketers have sought to modernize their marketing schemes. In 2008, Dove chocolate marketing manager Nicole McMillan acknowledged that “Chocolate ads have been notorious for showing women in clichéd chocolate moments such as luxuriating in a bubble bath or escaping to a fantasy land. For many women today such depictions are outmoded and not reflective of how they enjoy their chocolate” (Addington).

In response to these “clichéd” and harmful representations in other chocolate commercials, Dove produced a series of “chocumentaries.” Created by Cummins Nitro for the Australian television media market in 2008, these one minute commercials featured characters like the dramatic Em Ocean and the forgetful Pam Nesia who “ each have their own unique and slightly neurotic relationship with chocolate,” promoting the individually wrapped Dove Individuals (Addington).


In light of these modernizing aims, a review of these ad spots is disappointing. The exaggeration of the characters may pass as satire on the surface, but public statements by Dove suggested that these commercials were aimed at depicting more realistic depictions of chocolate consumption, not ironic ones.

Forced to respond to complaints filed against the advertisements, Dove stated that “Through extensive research we found that chocolate advertising to women tended to be cliched and unrealistic… Importantly we found that women do have a sense of humour and they appreciate honesty. We really wanted our advertising to talk to them on this level… Women’s chocolate moments are varied and unique…[and this] campaign celebrates women’s special relationship with chocolate because just as Dove® chocolate comes in their own individual wrapping, so too do the women who eat them” (Advertising Standards Bureau).

The narratives in fact do very little to depart from overused imagery in chocolate advertising, incorporating typical views of class, gender, and sexual preference within a storyline with a crazed or scatterbrained woman. The supposed attempt to challenge these ideas by giving an “honest” account in this commercial and the failure to do so is only a stronger reflection of the strength of these stereotypes within chocolate advertising.

From the outset, the commercial is scripted from an exclusively white, wealthy, Western perspective, with characters from developed countries including France, Australia and the United States. Opulent furnishings including a grand piano and tapestries play into class distinctions and reaffirm chocolate as a luxury product.  The relationship depicted, while arguably modern in the sense that an unmarried couple is shown together in their bedroom, follows the heterosexual skew of the chocolate industry. The man is obviously dominant, the woman dually dependent on him and chocolate to function normally. Additionally, the scenes are largely circumscribed in the domestic sphere. The scene of Pam in her workplace is hardly empowering: she clearly holds no leadership role and is shown sending an inappropriate email across the company list serve, reinforcing prejudices by suggesting that women are “silly” and not suited for the work world.

Most disturbingly, the commercial preserves the harmful theme of women as “scatterbrained” and “irrational consumers” (Robertson). The setting and the interaction between the characters can in many moments be construed as clinical. Flashes of nightmare and fear woven into the storyline of love and chocolate recall 18th century gothic romance novels depicting the damsel in distress. Here, Pam shows little personality, with her glazed eyes and tightly woven hair appearing doll-like and constrained, a common and degrading theme of females in advertising.

doll eyes

With the boyfriend carefully buttoned up and offering several clinical evaluations of his girlfriend, “It’s good for her… It’s okay. We get by,” the story pushes far beyond “scatterbrained” to something more serious and disturbing. Dysfunctional and controlled by chocolate and her boyfriend, Pam’s amnesia is managed by her daily dosage of, and possible addiction to, chocolate. These scenes are pseudo-scientific, falsely observing that “smooth chocolate dissolves the memory cells,” only trivializing serious conditions such as dimentia.

As clinical neuropsychologist Sallie Baxendale points out, “most profound amnesic syndromes have a clear neurological or psychiatric basis.” One forum commenter remarked on the inappropriateness of the commercials overtones, saying “I don’t think Dove Chocolate is a cure for depression, so they shouldn’t be marketing it  as one” (ABC Gruen Transfer Forum).

The ad targets women as individuals, but given Pam’s debilitating condition even with chocolate, there appears to be limited product appeal. Equally problematic is the consideration of chocolate’s effect on men. From the story, it appears that  “Alexandre” either does not eat chocolate at all and therefore does not suffer from memory loss, or his stronger constitution as a man allows him to eat chocolate without such effects, precluding one market or offending another.

To point out the absurdity of these constructs, an alternative commercial is constructed. Reversing gender roles and swapping eerily serious storyboards for one imbued with humor through the use of graphics interchange format (gifs), this depiction demonstrates the use of chocolate to reverse the balance of gendered power and to “brainwash” men: erasing their embarrassing moments and manipulating them into performing domestic tasks.

caption 1 woman rolling her eyes

caption 2 dance fail caption 3 DARYL-MCCOY-GETS-PANTSED

caption 4 jason-puncheon-missed-penalty-kick caption 5 kiss fail

caption 6 man-milk caption 7 office dance fail   caption 8 spill food

caption 9 woman giving chocolate to man man smiling silly

caption 10 man cleaning 2 man cleaning gif

caption 11 winking gif Dove-chocolate-xb1qot

The great difficulty in finding stock photos that depict women gifting or serving chocolate to men underscores the gender imbalance that permeates chocolate culture. Further, few gifs contain diverse characters and settings, largely depicting attractive, western figures and scenarios.

This storyboard  uses satire and inversion to highlight problems related to gender and crazed behavior, but elements of it are still inscribed in stereotypical roles and settings. Defying established advertising norms, women gain the upper hand through chocolate. However, men are manipulated to inhabit women’s domestic sphere using chocolate, depicted as distinctly out of place. Stereotypical spheres of influence including sports and the office are preserved here, and typical representations of men as “goofy” or “risk-takers” are not disputed.  Such shortcomings demonstrate the challenge in addressing and defying all problems associated with chocolate advertising stereotypes.

Future commercials might tackle these points and should also address and incorporate racial diversity, queer relationships, and typically excluded chocolate producers.


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