Tag Archives: women

Interview with EH Chocolatier

It was early February and Catharine Sweeney and Elaine Hsieh, co-owners of EH Chocolatier, were busy working on their Valentine’s Day orders. Sheet trays and whisks clanked against the steel countertops at a steady rhythm. February is one of the busiest time of the year for a chocolatier. Catharine and Elaine anticipated forty to fifty orders for Valentine’s Day; a modest amount for their three-year-old business, but enough to keep EH Chocolatier very busy. Catharine and Elaine make all of their chocolates by hand, as well as overseeing the packaging and shipping. As Valentine’s Day approached, they were hit with a New England curveball: winter storm Nemo, which would become the fifth largest snowfall in Boston history, was forecast to hit the weekend before Valentine’s Day. All around Boston the news warned of shutting down roads, airports, and subways. Authorities urged residents to prepare for a heavy downfall and warned of potential power outages. Nemo could wreck their biggest sale day and reputation.

However, EH Chocolatier had no idea of the real storm coming. On Tuesday, February 12th, Elaine was surprised to see EH Chocolatier featured in The New York Times  day’s “Best in the Box” article. Their salted caramels had been recognized as a top ten best chocolate caramel just in time for Valentine’s Day. Catharine and Elaine said that they did not get their hopes up initially, since  EH Chocolatier had previous exposure in major publications like Food and Wine. But at 9:05 AM Elaine’s email sounded off like an alarm, “bing, bing, bing, bing, bing”–the sound of hundreds of online chocolate orders pouring into her inbox. “It was kind of like an Oprah moment,” Elaine says recalling the experience. “We literally got five hundred orders in thirty-six hours.”

Most entrepreneurs could only dream of the success EH Chocolatier experienced with their first New York Times feature. However, waking up in the morning with five hundred orders of handmade chocolates is a daunting task. The article said chocolates could be ordered by Valentine’s Day–giving the team at EH Chocolatier merely four days to accomplish ten times their expected workload.  And then there was Nemo. “Oh my God, I don’t think we can handle this,” recalls Elaine of the experience. “But we did it.” With the help of friends and family, EH Chocolatier was able to successfully mail their chocolate orders in time for Valentine’s Day. Since The New York Times feature, Elaine and Catharine say that business has picked up at a steady pace.

Despite the publicity, the economic odds were against two mothers starting a business at the tail-end of a recession. “Micro-Chocolatiers” face tough competition from large manufacturers like Godiva or Lindt, who have extensive shipping networks and long shelf-life products. While EH Chocolatier still has room to grow as a business, there are benefits to staying small. “I think where we stand out is that its fresh,” Catharine says in our interview. “We make very small batches. . . . [T]he flavors [in chocolate] dissipate over time and will dry out a little bit. When you eat them and they’ve been made that week, theres no comparison to eating something that you’ve purchased from a large chocolate manufacturer who has [a shelf life of] maybe six months.”

Not only are EH Chocolatier’s confections fresh, but they offer creative flavor combinations. Inspiration for new chocolate flavors is not limited by the world of dessert. “A lot of it comes from our joy of savory eating,” Catharine says. “I have a friend that’s Thai and she cooks for me all the time. . . . [Y]ou start thinking; I wonder if I can pair these flavors with chocolate? [T]hats where our lemongrass Thai chili bonbon came from.” Beyond chocolate, EH Chocolatier also offers a passion fruit caramel  made with passion fruit puree combined with white chocolate.

The heart of EH Chocolatier that keeps the core of the business strong is the bond between Catharine and Elaine. “We knew of and heard of all those horror stories of friends starting businesses together,” says Elaine in the interview. “Catharine and I realized that it wouldn’t really be worth doing business together if we wouldn’t be friends afterwards.” “Because our strengths are very different it really is a match made in heaven,” Catharine says looking to Elaine as they share the kind of unrestrained belly-laugh that can only be had between close friends.

“We’re very ying yang,” says Elaine, who is dressed in a white linen shirt and brushed silver jewelry, with her straight black hair neatly parted down the side. Catharine sits by her side wearing a cherry red sweater with matching red rectangular glasses and red dangle bead earrings. “We are both equal in terms of developing new recipes and creating new ideas and we each sort of come at it from different bends and different palates. We’re equal in terms of strengths,” says Elaine.

Perhaps this strength is ultimately what enables a entrepreneurs to persevere through the difficult initial phases of a new business. After all, a business is fundamentally about relationships between people, whether it’s buyer or seller.  The challenges of winter storm Nemo and an unexpected bump in orders due to the Times article showed the EH Chocolatier has the right business model–and people for success.

Catharine and Elaine are helping to define what it means to be a female entrepreneur. In businesses highly dominated by men, women often forced to repress their femininity in order to be taken seriously. Desirable leadership traits are usually associated with male stereotypes of being aggressive, dominant, and individualistic. Women often feel pressure to be a “woman in a man’s world” and are not given the freedom to be a “woman in a woman’s” world because society has often categorized female-dominated industries as being less important, less deserving of respect, less difficult, and less desireable. As two mothers and entrepreneurs in the chocolate industry, an industry that has long been the domain of women, Catharine and Elaine reflect what it means to be a strong, female leader who fully leans into being a “woman in a woman’s” world.

It is important to see female leadership in the chocolate industry for a few reasons. The story of how chocolate rose to global prominence has largely taken place in the unwritten history of women. For example, many believe European colonists were responsible for innovating on cacao recipes taken from the Mesoamericans and transformed to fit European tastes. For example, Spanish Doctor and Military surgeon Antonio Lavedan wrote in 1796 in Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, cafe, te y chocolate:

“When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in the Americas, the inhabitants there made a cacao liquor which was diluted in hot water seasoned with pepper and other spices . . . all these ingredients gave this mixture a brutish quality and a very savage taste . . . The Spanish, more industrious than the Savages, procured to correct the bad flavor of this liquor, adding to this cacao paste different fragrances of the East and many spices of this country [Spain]. Of all these ingredients we have maintained only the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon” (Lavedan, Antonio).

 

This Eurocentric view is fundamentally flawed but has persisted because historians have routinely overlooked the history of people of color and women. When the Spanish and Portuguese arrived in Mesoamerica, they employed the encomienda system and forced women to perform housework and prepare food. As a result, Mesoamerican women introduced European settlers to the different ways of preparing cacao and rather than the Europeans modifying chocolate to fit their different cultural tastes, Europeans developed a cultural taste for Indian chocolate (Marcy Norton, 2006). Historians have often ignored the role of gender in shaping history and as a result, many people fail to realize that Mesoamerican women are largely responsible for introducing chocolate to the world out of obscurity.

For example, many people believe Europeans were the first to sweeten chocolate, however Mesoamericans had been sweetening chocolate for a while.

meso

Martin, Carla. “Colonial Mesoamerican Cacao Beverage Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

euro

Source: Martin, Carla. “Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

As chocolate made its way through Spain, Italy, France, and Britain, recipes were passed down between women from kitchen to kitchen. This played a formative role in discovering new uses for chocolate but scholars and historians have traditionally ignored studying and documenting this because chocolate has long been considered a “women’s” domain. As a result, the early evolution of chocolate throughout Europe is poorly documented and relatively unknown.

As the industry surrounding chocolate developed in the early 1900s, women were excluded participation in the development of chocolate as a business and it wasn’t until  1970s that Mar’s Chocolate hired a woman named Lone Clark to Vice President of HR, an unprecedented move at the time but still a testament to the newness of welcoming women into ownership of an industry that they by and large laid the foundations to.

Furthermore, chocolate has long been a tool for those in power to set the agenda on the wants and desires of women. Advertising is largely dominated by men and has historically had a lack of diversity of women in senior level positions. As a result, the messages connecting women to chocolate have focused on reinforcing highly gendered, heteronormative stereotypes of femininity. It is yet another way men have defined what constitutes women’s spaces and what it means to be a woman.

Catharine and Elaine’s success as chocolatiers represents women taking ownership of “women’s” domains, and paying homage to the unacknowledged labor of women who introduced the world to chocolate.

 

Bibliography

Dishman, Lydia. “The Gender Divide and the Traits of Effective Leadership: Who Comes Out on Top?” Fast Company, 05/20/2014. Retrieved online: https://www.fastcompany.com/3030754/the-gender-divide-and-the-traits-of-effective-leadership-who-comes-out-on

Hsieh, Elaine, Catharine, Sweeney. Personal Interview about EH Chocolatiers. Conducted March, 2015.

Lavedan, Antonio. “Tratado de los usos, abusos, propiedades y virtudes del tabaco, café, té y chocolate : extractado de los mejores autores que han tratado de esta materia, á fin de que su uso no perjudique á la salud, antes bien pueda servir de alivio y curación de muchos males.” Madrid : En la Imprenta Real, 1796.

Retrieved online: https://archive.org/details/tratadodelosuso00lavegoog

Mars Inc. “At Mars, the Evolution of Female Leaders Started Early,” Mars News. Mars.com, 03/23/2017. Retrieved online: http://www.mars.com/global/press-center/newsroom/womens-history-month-ione-clark

Martin, Carla. “Colonial European Chocolate Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.

Martin, Carla. “Colonial Mesoamerican Cacao Beverage Recipe Ingredients,” Chocolate Expansion, Chocolate, Culture and the Politics of Food. Lecture. Spring Academic Year, 2017.














 

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Exploitation or Smart Marketing? Comparing and Analyzing the Business Practices of Hershey’s and Divine Chocolate

Are chocolate companies exploiting workers when they use a values-based approach to promote sales? Although some companies are clearly exploiting its workers, there is a difference between exploitation and smart marketing. 

Let’s compare the practices of Hershey’s Chocolate and Divine Chocolate to illustrate this point: The elements of exploitation exist in the practices of Hershey’s because they are advertising falsehoods and treating their workers as the opposite of what they market; Divine Chocolate is the polar opposite of Hershey’s in this manner because they market values that they  actually practice, making them smart marketers – not exploiters.

Defining Exploitation

Is Divine Chocolate being exploitative? Exploiting in itself is deriving full use of something or someone unfairly (Alberts). Let’s first define exploiting for our own terms when it comes to thinking about chocolate companies – Exploiting is the act of a chocolate company using an element to maneuver, outrank, increase sales, or brand the company in a certain way without giving fair benefit to the people that they are using to achieve these goals.

Exploiting also has the following connotations when it comes to chocolate companies such as (but not limited to) when it comes to what they do; this will be used as our litmus test to determine whether or not true exploitation is at play:

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work

Misrepresenting benefits to workers

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men)

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade)

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think)

Hershey’s Chocolate

Before we analyze the possibility of Divine Chocolate being exploitative, let’s analyze a company that passes the litmus test for exploitation – Hershey’s Chocolate.

By analyzing their pictures in advertisements and their marketing and comparing it to the real picture of the company, we can certainly see how Hershey’s Chocolate is being exploitative.

Hershey’s history of exploitation goes back essentially since the beginning of the start of the company; the company often used farms and factories that did not pay its workers a fair wage, lowered the standard of living, and took part in the enslaving of workers by providing unsafe conditions (Anti-Given that, one would think that the company would have “changed its tune” so to speak. However, Hershey’s has not done so and has continued to abuse their power as a top-tier chocolate company. It has been proven that Hershey’s is still taking part in these kinds of practices, which has been noted by researchers on international student workers that took part in a foreign exchange program in the United States with Hershey’s as their sponsor. According to the New York Times:

The students, who were earning about $8 an hour, said they were isolated within the plant, rarely finding moments to practice English or socialize with Americans. With little explanation or accounting, the sponsor [Hershey’s] took steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance that left many of them too little money to afford the tourist wanderings they had eagerly anticipated (Preston).

How can Hershey’s not be an exploiter if international student workers, who are usually unfamiliar with the United States, cannot afford to even travel to the places that they wanted to see; these international workers took the job with Hershey’s in order to site-see in exchange for work, and Hershey’s is essentially taking that element away from them. Further, the promises that Hershey’s made to the students regarding a certain amount of money given to them was understood by the company to be separate from the housing, transportation, and insurance. Clearly, Hershey’s is exploiting the international workers by lowering their wages in order to get labor in the form of the cheapest way possible; these deductions would not even begin to cover a legal and livable way or manner if an American had this job. Thus, Hershey’s found a way to bypass the legal system in order to get cheaper labor – in the form of exploited international students.

Additionally, one cannot even argue that Hershey’s has learned its lesson on this front – despite the media attention, public outcry, and protests from students alike, Hershey’s is still running this program; imagine the kind of exploitation that could be occurring in more vulnerable areas if this kind of company if this type of exploitation is happening in the United States. If the plant in Pennsylvania is seeing these kinds of abuses, it is safe to assume that the exploitation along the Ivory Coast and the Americas are seeing abuses that are hidden away from the public.

Now, let’s take a look at the advertisements in Hershey’s pictures that are quite different than the actual reality of the company. For instance, in Figure 1, we see how Hershey’s is advertising itself as a chocolate that is a part of “shared goodness:”

 

images

(Figure 1. Hershey’s Community Archives)

 

This advertisement, at first glance, may not seem like a direct link to exploitation, but the company is promoting itself as a brand that is values-based. It draws upon the picture of a happy family and talks about how Hershey’s “good business” practices translates into better chocolate for the family, resulting in a “better life and bright future.” However, just from the proven evidence discussed regarding the student workers, the reality of Hershey’s is very different than what it is advertising. Clearly, Hershey’s is branding itself as a business that is “good,” however, it is not actually being a “good” business with values.

This type of misrepresentation marketing is all throughout many of their advertisements throughout the years. For example, Figure 2 tells another compelling story about how Hershey is actually promoting diversity when it is really not:

1986_hersheys_mini_ad

(Figure 2. Hershey’s Community Archives)

In this picture, children of different ethnicities and races are being shown; Hershey’s is advertising themselves as a company that promotes inclusiveness across all kinds of ethnic and racial divides. For instance, it talks about how it puts different kinds of candies for all kinds of kids. However, the example of exploitation of its international student workers tells a very different kind of a story. How can a brand that claims to be “inclusive” not be inclusive to its international workers? How could a brand that would never be able to legally get away with reductions in paychecks and amenities for American workers be so inclusive if it takes a legal loophole to do so for its international workers? Clearly, it can be seen how just this one type of exploitation is being used in full force, which passes our litmus test on essentially all fronts. It has abused a sensitive group, misrepresents benefits to workers and unfairly promises them lies, and then brands the company in a way that misrepresents the brand to the consumer, whom otherwise would think that Hershey’s has excellent values just from looking at their advertisements; Hershey’s, knowing that most targeted and loyal consumers are not going to search for their name on the Internet every time they want to buy a bag or piece of chocolate, use this to their advantage.

 

Divine Chocolate

Now let’s compare how Divine Chocolate uses certain advertisements to help attract consumers, but is not being exploited in their efforts, which is the polar opposite of what Hershey’s is doing:

Divine Chocolate, according to Sam Binkley employed a values-based marketing strategy in order to justify their price:

Divine has moved on from selling mainly on the basis of the solidarity value of its product to material use value taste. [Divine Chocolate] still is slightly more expensive as it must, other than the likes of Nestle and Kraft, fulfill its double bottom line of economic and social viability. So while the product is competitive on a level of quality, its price still needs to be justified in terms of justice or solidarity. In order to go beyond this, Divine [needed] to add symbolic use value to its brand, engage in consciously designed commodity aesthetic in order to push into unchartered mass markets (Binkley).

 

Divine Chocolate, like Hershey’s, desired to push even further for profits for their already-successful companies so it could stay competitive; however, what makes it different than other companies is that it is a specialty type of chocolate in a specialty kind of market. In order to be competitive within those specific markets, Divine Chocolate desired to break and expand into the mass markets by justifying their price to those kinds of consumers. In turn, it created the Women’s Empowerment Campaign, which promotes the equality of women chocolate workers, in order to attract consumers (Divine Chocolate).

 

But how is Divine Chocolate, unlike Hershey’s, not being exploitative if they are using mass marketing strategies in the form of women’s empowerment campaigns to sell their product? The difference here is that Divine Chocolate is actually doing what they say and promote in terms of their campaign to sell product.

 

The women’s empowerment campaign is real because it is empowering women in ways that they have never been empowered before. For instance, Divine Chocolate started their journey to change conditions when they gave 44 percent equity to Kuapa Kokoo, the largest shareholder of the company’s assets; this co-operative represents 85,000 farm members across 1,257 villages, and is now the largest co-operative in the world; it is credited with the rise of female cacao ownership of at least 20 percent (Leissle, Wiego). Divine allows women farmers to take a special part in an ownership that no other chocolate company has seen before; clearly, it is empowering women in a way that not only represents them as true stakeholders, but brings positivism to an industry that can be quit laborious, abusive, and depressing for other workers who are not afforded such basic rights. Further, approximately 2 percent of the turnover from Divine is specifically used to promote programs to help farmers gain more skills such as good governance programs, literacy programs, and model farming lessons. Thus, Divine not only gives more than fair equity to its workers (the largest of its kind in history), but invests even more money from their profit to ensure that their workers are gaining life skills to use both inside and outside the farm; by bringing in educational and quality of life programs, Divine is sending an authentic message with real action to the female farmers of Ghana: Divine wants to support you and your work by uplifting you and the community.

By examining the advertising campaigns of Divine Chocolate, we can see a message of solidarity and unity that runs throughout its campaign. For instance, in Figure 3, Divine Chocolate uses a picture of an attractive, healthy-looking female worker to get their message across loud and clear:

2015-04-01-aaas-e119-lecture-9-race-ethnicity-gender-and-class-in-chocolate-advertisements-goo-copy-version-2

(Figure 3. Divine Chocolate)

Many critics may charge that because the woman is attractive, dressed nicely, and looks happy, Divine Chocolate is exploiting its female workers because it promotes “sexuality” and an “untrue side of the chocolate industry”. However, this picture of the woman is an accurate picture because Divine Chocolate helps uplift women to give them the lifestyle that can afford many of these luxuries; with their fair payouts and fair trade program, Divine Chocolate can accurately use this advertisement as an authentic way to attract consumers. When looking at this advertisement, most consumers, on first glance, would think of Divine Chocolate as a chocolate brand that is an “equality treat” – because it is. They further humanize the female chocolate worker, who is actually a co-operative co-owner, by putting her name on the advertisement; the consumer will be led to think that when they buy a bag or piece of Divine Chocolate, the benefit will be going to female workers like Beatrice – and rightfully so because it actually is doing that. That, in itself, is not exploitation but a smart marketing scheme that is a “win-win” for both Divine Chocolate and female workers like Beatrice. All in all, Divine Chocolate has gone out of their way to make this picture a reality – their own values-based version of the chocolate industry.

In Figure 4, we can see how this values-based campaign continues throughout many of their packaging:

108567_divine-web

(Figure 4. Divine Chocolate)

In their designs, Divine Chocolate presents itself as a champion for women by placing designs that are aesthetically pleasing to many females and placing a message on top of the packaging reading “Empowering Women Cacao Farmers.” Like in the picture above, some critics may think that by putting this packaging out in this manner, Divine Chocolate is exploiting women workers because they are using designs that attract consumers to think that they are helping women workers. However, like stated in the previous discussion, they actually are helping women. Further critics may charge that this is being used for International Women’s Day to “cash in” on the holiday, but that charge only further hones in on the point that Divine Chocolate is not being a champion of women just on Women’s Day but essentially every day.

 Just because a company uses an element of their system (which, in this case, is championing the female worker) to sell product does not mean that they are being exploitative. On the other hand, if Divine Chocolate was using the same business practices as Hershey’s and using this campaign, they would then be exploitative. But Divine Chocolate is simply promoting the ideas and concepts that they have actually put into practice.

If these points did not already answer the question of whether or not Divine Chocolate is being exploitative for you, let’s take a direct look back at our litmus test for exploitation

Litmus Test: Is Divine Chocolate partaking in any of the following?

Workers that are a part of a minority, less powerful group (women, international students, children, members of the economic lower class)

Not fairly paying workers for their work – No, workers are granted an excellent amount of equity

Misrepresenting benefits to workers – No, workers are actually being empowered by the company

Misrepresenting a situation to consumers –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is authentic

Using workers to promote ideas/situations that are not actually occurring within the company (i.e. the idea of gender equality when women may get paid less than men) –No, the women’s empowerment campaign is helping women

Branding the company in a way that promotes an idea to sell product but using opposite means to get there (i.e. the idea of fair trade but using a farm/manufacturing factory that does not promote fair trade) –No, ideas like fair trade and empowerment are involved

*Not giving the same rights and privileges to workers that are granted to consumers (this may come in the form of cacao workers cultivating and being a part of the process of making chocolate but actually never tasting chocolate in its final form themselves; this is an industry norm that happens more often than most consumers would think) –No, workers are a part of the brand name but also benefiting from the marketing taking place since they get a higher amount of equity, which equals and translates into improved working conditions and lifestyles

Clearly, unlike Hershey’s, Divine Chocolate does not pass the litmus test for exploitation; the Women’s Empowerment Campaign is a real campaign, which Divine Chocolate uses for smart marketing and true empowerment.

 

References

Alberts, Heike. “Using Cocoa and Chocolate to Teach Human Geography.” Journal of Geography, 2010.

Binkley, Sam. “Cultural Studies and Anti-Consumerism.” New York: Routledge, 2011. Print.

Case Study: Women Cocoa Farmers in Ghana. Wiego. <http://www.wiego.org/wiego/case-study-women-cocoa-farmers-ghana&gt;

Divine Chocolate. <http://www.divinechocolate.com/us/&gt;

Hershey’s Community Archives. <http://blog.hersheyarchives.org/category/hershey-chocolate/marketing/&gt;

Leissle, Kristie.  “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Studies, 2012.

Preston, Julia. “Pleas Unheeded as Student’s U.S. Jobs Soured.” New York Times, 2011.

The Cocoa Industry in West Africa. Anti-Slavery International, 2004. <http://www.antislavery.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1_cocoa_report_2004.pdf&gt;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing Chocolate: Common Knowledge vs “Big Chocolate” Marketing

Introduction

Chocolate is sinful and mature; it has the power to make people happy, especially women. That exact set of information could come from any chocolate commercial like the “Dove Senses” one linked above, but also came from three people interviewed on their relationship with chocolate both in their childhood. All three subjects came from different regions of the United States, were born in different generations, and were of different ethnicity and genders. Throughout the interviews conducted, chocolate was described as a happy food, lightening people’s moods and comforting them after long days of work. When remembering their childhood experiences with chocolate and their feelings about eating it as adults, they all thought it to be indulgent and somewhat sinful, two of the three linking chocolate with weight gain. Two of the three interviewees were born before 1985 and mentioned how chocolate commercials have markedly transitioned from focusing on children to more adult and mature marketing tropes. Lastly, in each interview, women were thought to enjoy and like chocolate more than men regardless of the gender of the interviewee. “Big chocolate” has taken these commonly held beliefs about chocolate and based their marketing off of it, and, in turn, has convinced an even larger audience that chocolate will make them happier, curb their desire, and is not just for children, but also adults.

Happiness

The Butler’s Chocolates ad above assumes that giving a gift of chocolate is gifting happiness; all three interviewees would agree. One interviewer, Andrew*, would go so far as call it a “natural craving”; he believed that if you’ve eaten chocolate once, you want to eat it again, comparing it to a drug. Chocolate has been described as a drug, a craving, and an addiction, but the actual attraction that chocolate has to human taste buds is theorized to come from the high fat and sugar contents or its palatability (Benton 215). Because the body wants as much fat and sugar as possible for survival, it releases endorphins inside the brain making consumers happier and more energized. Endorphins allow the brain to understand and calculate faster and with ease which naturally makes people happier; chocolate being seen as a gift of happiness is not far off from the physiological and psychological truth (Wenk, 17). Humans naturally crave food, but crave chocolate more commonly than other foods because of its palatable contents like junk foods (Benton 206). Chocolate could not be considered as addictive though. Drugs of abuse release endorphins and dopamine into the brain similarly to chocolate, but the craving for these drugs after first-time usage comes from a place of loss rather than a physiological craving (Benton 215). When the brain recognizes that a food is high in fat and sugar content, it craves the food, sometimes without the subject ever tasting it; chocolate consumption has a physiological purpose to the human brain whereas drugs of abuse do not until used for a first time.

Although positive reactions were the first reactions to questions about chocolate, interviewees listed negative emotions and feelings as well. An interviewee, Matt, said that it sometimes made him feel fat, uncomfortable, and overwhelmed if he ate too much. The two others, Andrew and Jessica, linked chocolate to unhealthy weight gain and obesity, Jessica claiming it as a possible gateway food to an unhealthy lifestyle. Unprompted, negative reactions were listed after positive reactions felt about chocolate and its consumption. On the surface and in television commercials and ads, chocolate brings joy, happiness, and celebration, but consumers recognize the dark consequences of eating too much chocolate or becoming too reliant on it as a mood booster. Chocolate physiologically and psychologically makes people happy so marketers play off of it as a cure-all for a hard day or stressful week.

A Deadly Sin

In every interview, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was described as an important childhood memory of chocolate; the famous chocolate river surrounded by a confectionery forest is delightful to the eye and the stomach, leaving a lasting impression into adulthood. The film may have a sweet candy coating, but the theme itself is all sin. Throughout the film, spoiled kids get whisked away because of disrespect, gluttony, greed, pride, etc. The first of these exits by the character Augustus Gloop meant to portray gluttony. Note that of all the candies and confectioneries within the forest and river, the chocolate river is what destroys Augustus. As Wonka sits back and watches Augustus move towards and into the pipe, he casually begins to eat a chocolate bar cheekily saying, “The suspense is terrible… I hope it will last.” while the crowd of parents and children panic around him. The choice of a chocolate bar, rather than a colorful candy, shows how indulgent and unfazed he is even amidst panic and chaos. Chocolate here brings out the worst in Augustus and in Wonka and commercials like to take part in that as well. The “Dove Senses” commercial posed chocolate as indulgent, luxurious, and tempting, all more positive symbols of sinful behavior.

Matt’s first memory of chocolate was when he was about five years old; he had gone inside a convenience store with his mother and, on the way out, had grabbed and stolen a bag of Mars M&M’s. When his mother saw him eating them the in car on the way home, he denied that he had been eating chocolate and was marched straight back to the store to apologize for the theft. To Matt, chocolate has a vivid memory of guilt whereas the other two, Jessica and Andrew, negatively associated it with weight gain. Those who have more negative emotions about eating chocolate generally focus more on their health, dieting, and appearances (Benton 207). They are more likely to feel sick after eating chocolate and more often use a rationale like “to keep my energy levels up” to validate their chocolate consumption. The sinfulness and guilt associated with chocolate is transformed into indulgence, desire, and often lust to help marketers mask negative emotions or feelings from chocolate.

Chocolate Ads Then and Now

With both Jessica and Matt who were born before 1985, both remembered a distinct change in chocolate and confectionery commercials and ads from their childhoods to the current day. Chocolate ads during both of their childhoods were primarily concerned with marketing towards children using bright cartoon characters and catchy jingles. Commercials for chocolates currently have become distinctly more mature with references to pop culture, adult relationships, and the real world. Take a look at M&Ms commercials. The first one here was aired during the 1970s while the second ad was aired in April 2017:

You can immediately notice the distinct change of cartoon to CGI M&M people. Although that change does come with technological progression, the M&M men are placed in a modern world where things are not as forgiving or magical. Other M&Ms ads over the past six years have been similar, making their cartoon candy men into snarky, modern characters set in the real world. In the 1980s, the chocolate industry surged as the baby boomer generation became adults and continued to buy chocolate for themselves; “big chocolate” began to target adults with commercials during sports events, daily news programs, and weekly sitcoms (Winters). The target audience of chocolate commercials had grown up and so did their cartoon characters and tones. By the time the twenty-first century came around, commercials for chocolates were targeting both children and adults. More mature variations of chocolate like Dove sprung into the market and found success from a new generation of adults. When asked to recollect the evolution of chocolate marketing, both Jessica and Matt remarked on how many varieties of chocolate products have developed and the rainbow of candy wrapping colors in convenience stores. As the chocolate industry exploded so did the amount of possibilities; “big chocolate” started adding fruity and minty flavors, new textures, and larger sizes of candy bar for consumption. Almost any type of candy bar thought of is on the market today and has moved from its basic consumption during the 1960s and 1970s. “Big chocolate” had no choice when it made its marketing more mature. Its largest consumer group, the baby boomers, had become adults; to make the most profits, “big chocolate” would have to find a way to appeal to them, making chocolate a treat for both adults and children.

Women and Chocolate

Mature chocolate ads like the “Dove Senses” commercial usually depict women living luxuriously and indulging in sinful desires. Dove as a product exclusively targets adult women through their marketing as a product that will make women happy and more positive during their days. When asked during interviewing why people like chocolate, both Matt and Andrew expressed that women got more pleasure and consumed more chocolate than men. Although chocolate consumption by men and women is markedly the same, almost all chocolate ads targeting adults specifically target women or have a woman as the primary focus of the ad. With brands like Dove stressing the idea of chocolate for women, women may be physiologically and psychologically more drawn to chocolate than men. Palatable foods with high fat and sugar content like chocolate are most pleasurable when a subject is under some form of psychological stress. Hormonally, women are more often under psychological stress from menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and a higher likelihood for unipolar depression (Briollo and Di Renzo 166). Chocolate craving and consumption becomes more frequent before, during, and after menstrual cycles and also during pregnancy.

When asked about the time she ate the most chocolate in her life, Jessica said it was during her first pregnancy; she was craving chocolate all the time and every day. During pregnancy, rapid hormonal changes within the brain strike indicators of stress making the subject crave more palatable foods (Briollo and Di Renzo 170). Chocolate’s pleasurableness to eat and familiarity to women often leaves its mark in cravings. Chocolate consumption during pregnancy has been proven in multiple cases to be beneficial or relatively harmless, but it does boost the mental well-being of pregnant women and reduces stress. Women do find chocolate more pleasurable than men because of natural hormonal changes that induce physiological stress on the brain and body so they often crave chocolate more often than their male counterparts. The endorphins in chocolate reduce stress for both men and women, but more often in women because of physiological stress caused by menstruation and pregnancy.  “Big chocolate” targets female consumers because women buy more chocolate than men, not because they consume more chocolate than men. Because of physiological stress, women are more likely to give in to buying chocolate on a craving over men although men and women consume about the same amount of chocolate each year.

 Conclusion

Advertisements for chocolate are influenced by common beliefs about chocolate’s properties and characteristics. Chocolate does provide stress relief and boosts mood, but often makes people feel guilty for eating it, especially those focused on body image or weight loss. These advertisements target people’s already held beliefs and enhance them making chocolate seem almost lustful, overwhelmingly happy, and for every type of consumer. Chocolate ads have ditched their colorful cartoon imagery and swapped it for dry, realistic humor or sexual chocolate fantasies all because its consumer base began to age. Chocolate marketing has only swollen and spread commonly held beliefs and updated itself to stay current and sell to wider audiences. Matt, Andrew, and Jessica were all interviewed with twenty questions about their experiences, relationships, and reactions towards chocolate. The last question in the interview asked if they had any knowledge of cacao farming or production; all three interviewees had no knowledge of how chocolate is produced, yet could name specific chocolate commercials from their childhood forty or fifty years in the past. Commonly held beliefs about chocolate are informed by marketing and vice versa, but consumers of “big chocolate” know very little about the product they are actually buying.

*All names of those interviewed have been changed.

Works Referenced

Benton, David. “The Biology and Psychology of Chocolate Craving.” Coffee, Tea, Chocolate, and the Brain. Ed. Astrid Nehlig. Boca Raton, FL: CRC, 2004. 205-18. Print.

Brillo, Eleonora, and Gian Carlo Di Renzo. “Chocolate, Cocoa and Women’s Health.”Chocolate and Health: Chemistry, Nutrition and Therapy. By Philip K. Wilson. London: Royal Society of Chemistry, 2015. 160-72. Print.

Wenk, Gary L. “Euphoria, Depression, & Madness.” Your Brain on Food: How Chemicals Control Your Thoughts and Feelings. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2015. N. pag. Print.

Winters, Patricia. “Chocolate Marketing No Longer Kids’ Stuff.” Advertising Age 57.31 (1986): 22. Web.

Empowering Women in Advertisments

I wanted to open this blog post with a witty sentence introducing my topic, why the era of sexualizing women in advertisements needs to end, and googled ‘sex sells’ for inspiration. The second hit had the following description:

Here is the cold hard truth, “Sex Sells.” Hate it or love it, sex attracts the eye more than any other type of advertisement (Ovsyannykov).

In lieu of this, here is my introduction, albeit angrier and less witty than I had originally intended:

Here is the cold hard truth, we live in a patriarchal society: women currently earn $0.79 to every dollar made by men and it will be another century before gender equality is achieved in top management positions if we continue at the current pace (Bloomberg). Hate it or love it, barriers and obstacles to gender parity are rampant in society, one of the most pervasive being the presentation of women in advertisement as sexual and trivial beings. “Sex sells,” it attracts the eye, capturing the attention of audiences, but it is not the only means of effective advertising. In fact, for products or services that have nothing to do with sex, sexual advertisements can be less effective than non-sexual advertisements (Lynn).

The chocolate industry is plagued by marketing campaigns that marginalize women, depicting them as sexual objects unable to resist the temptation of chocolate. By portraying women in this light, these advertisements are helping to maintain gender stereotypes and harming the mental health of young girls. The chocolate industry, particularly as a non-sexual industry, has a moral obligation to move away from using gendered stereotypes in advertisements.

Chocolate Advertisements: A Gendered Portrayal  

In “Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History,” Emma Robertson discusses the portrayal of women in the chocolate industry versus the reality of their position. She traces chocolate from the harvest of the cacao in Africa to production in factories to consumption, and offers that advertising “failed to represent the actual economic, political, and social conditions in which Rowntree and Cadbury products, and ultimately profits, were produced” (Robertson, 19). Women were fetishized as housewives and mothers, shown as irrational narcissistic consumers, and objective as “sexual objects to maintain male morale” (Robertson, 30). Prior to WWII, they were solely depicted in the workplace during wartime although they were responsible for the production of chocolate bars in factories during peace times.

For more examples of the sexualization of women in chocolate advertisements, check out this web page from Carla Martin’s “Bittersweet Notes: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food.”

The Sexualization of Women: Dramatic Effects

By depicting women in such a sexualized way, the chocolate industry is subliminally enforcing the antiquated stereotype that women are objects. This bolsters the current societal inequities and provides supporting evidence to stereotypes. This has a couple noteworthy implications for the workplace: it may make people less likely to inherently trust and support the rise of women in managerial positions, and also can serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Constantly bombarded by the idea that women are meant for the house not office, women can internalize this message and consequentially not try to rise the corporate ranks or stand up for themselves and demand an earned salary/position.

In 2007, the American Psychological Association (APA) published a study that found that the sexualization of women in the media has negative effects on young girls who are exposed to it, effecting cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, and healthy sexual development (Zurbriggen). Research finds a strong linkage between sexualization and eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression, three of the most commonly diagnosed mental problems in girls and women (Zurbriggen). This means that the take away for young girls viewing the sexy chocolate ads described above is not the product advertised but the characteristics of the oftentimes female model.

 Changing the Dialogue: Our Kit Kat Advertisement

In hopes of changing the focus of chocolate advertisements, we chose to recreate a Nestlé Kit-Kat advertisement from the “One-minute break” campaign created by Zoopa, an Italian agency in 2008. Inspired by the “One-Minute Sculptures” of Erwin Wurum, this ad campaign features various professionals in silly positions with a Kit Kat bar. Unlike the featured men who are shown in appropriate workplace clothing, the woman is shown in a revealing skirt with a high front slit even though skirt suits generally have a small slit in the back for the sole purpose of allowing for greater leg mobility when walking. While the painter is shown with brushes and a ladder, the doctor with a stethoscope, and the businessman with a laptop, the woman is shown solely with a rolling chair, an object that does not increase productivity whatsoever, particularly as standing desks become more and more popular in the workplace.

Our advertisement (below on the right; the original advertisement is below on the left) is empowering: we clothed our model in a pantsuit just like the other members of the campaign. The laptop she carries and the added tagline, “Two perfect presentations down, two to go. Have a break, you earned it”, not only stress her professionalism but also the role of Kit-Kats as an enjoyable midday energy-booster. With her head turned, the focus is on the Kit-Kat bar, not the model, with the red packaging standing out starkly against the light backdrop. These changes keep the main intended message from the original advertisement intact, “Have a break. Have a Kit Kat,” while dramatically improving the subliminal message – that women can be powerful agents in the workplace.

Moving Forward: A Moral Obligation

The portrayal of women in advertisements has not naturally followed nor kept pace with the changing social roles of women, and it is time chocolate companies, particularly the Big 5, transform their marketing practices. To encourage change, governments should follow the European Union, who in 2008 passed a resolution urging Member States to honor the ‘European Pact for Gender Equality’ by tackling marketing and advertising (Van Hellemont and Van den Bulck). Specifically, they called on Member States to ensure:

“by appropriate means that marketing and advertising guarantee respect for human dignity and integrity of the person, are neither directly nor indirectly discriminatory nor contain any incitement to hatred based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.”

Although enforcing this type of legislation can be difficult, it can create incentives for change. The resolution suggested Member States create public awards for companies and campaigns that create advertisements emphasizing gender equality. This incentivizes companies by providing them with the opportunity to gain free media attention across a large population. The legislation also starts a dialogue, and public pressure can be the strongest catalyst for change.

Work Cited

“Cadbury’s Flake – Bath (1992, UK)”.YouTube. 2016. Web.
Colby, Laura. “Women’s C-Suite Equality is Only 100 Years Away.” Bloomberg. 2015. Web.
Lynn, Ann Louise. “The effects of female sexual images on persuasion.” ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (1995). Web.
Martin, Carla. “Valentine’s Day: Women Being Seduced by Chocolate.” Bittersweet Notes: Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. 2012. Web.
Nestlé S.A. Kit Kat. Ads of the World. Zooppa, June 2008. Web.
Ovsyannykov, Igor. “Sex Sells, 50 Creative Sexual Advertisements.” Inspiration Feed (2011). Web.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press (2010). Print.
Van Hellemont, Corinne, and Hilde Van den Bulck. “Impacts of advertisements that are unfriendly to women and men.” International Journal of Advertising 31 (2012). Web.
Zurbriggen, Eileen L. et al. Report Of The APA Task Force On The Sexualization Of Girls. Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2007. Web.

The Nature of Women: The sexualization of women in chocolate advertising

“Do you know that when you get an urge to eat chocolate, you shouldn’t resist- there’s a deep physical reason for it?” “When you resist the urge to eat chocolate you are ignoring one of Nature’s most serious warnings” (Robertson 35). The following phrases are from 1930s Aero chocolate advertisements aimed at female consumers. 80 years later, a 2016 Dove’s Fruit and Nut advertisement appeals to customers with a remarkably similar message, portraying women in a highly sexualized manner in order to sell chocolate. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1weV9ribio

Through the use of nature imagery, Dove implies that women naturally exhibit extreme sexual desire, but at the same time, expects women to control them, with the exception of consuming chocolate. This is similar to Rowntree’s ads in the early 20th century, where Emma Robertson’s analysis in Chocolate, Women and Empire deems chocolate a socially acceptable and “natural release” of such desires. (35) Dove’s modern advertisement speaks to the larger propensity to sexualize women, using their perceived exaggerated “natural” sexual desires as justification, while also condemning and shaming them for their sexuality. My advertisement, instead, aims to indicate that it is possible to appeal to what is considered natural without perpetuating problematic gendered views.

Chocolate has a long history as a supposed aphrodisiac, connected to sin, which the advertisement plays into by sexualizing a woman who is consuming chocolate. After consuming a piece of chocolate, the woman opens her eyes and we are allowed into her inner thoughts. In an alter ego form, she walks across a desert landscape, hitting a whip against the ground, while biting into the chocolate aggressively in the real world. And in this sexulization, the advertisement also objectifies her. At the beginning of the advertisement, the only shots of her include her eyes and mouth. She is reduced to these body parts- the mouth for consuming chocolate and the eyes to represent passage into her fantasy. We only see the rest of her through the lens of her sexuality. In the multiple scenes, she wears dresses of different colors- red and brown, corresponding to the fruit and nuts in the chocolate. In this way, she becomes almost conflated with the product. When chocolate pours slowly and sensuously over fruits and nuts, it almost becomes a proxy for her body. This is furthered by the fact that fruits collide and explode, splashing onto her skin.

The woman’s sophisticated clothing indicates this isn’t a depiction of day-to-day reality, but also speaks to the idea of chocolate being an indulgence, not just of money but also of desire. With a tagline like “revel in the pleasure,” the chocolate, along with sexual desire becomes a guilty pleasure. This indulgence is also represented in her body movements. She moves fluidly and several times appears to fall back. This can symbolize “letting go” in a sense- she no longer has control of her sexual desire. The use of natural imagery, like the desert and ocean, indicates that that she is guided instead by a natural tendency. While she floats in the water, the camera zooms out to show her floating in a crystal ball. In this way, she becomes someone else’s fantasy or object of desire. She becomes commodified. This external sexualizing of the woman seems to be justified in the advertisement due to her innate sexual nature.

The advertisement can also be analyzed from the perspective of race. The woman in the advertisement is white, and initially “normal” before she consumes chocolate, becoming aroused. Although vanilla is a complex spice, historically, a dichotomy has been set up between vanilla and chocolate, with vanilla being “bland” while chocolate “exotic.” As outlined in Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance, initially, when vanilla became widespread, it was as vanilla ice cream, which when eaten by itself, can be considered plain. Later, during the 1940s, vanilla was used to describe a simple airplane, console or circuit board. And later in the 1950s and 1960s, in fashion it was used to label a simple wardrobe before transitioning into its modern day usage as something standard (Rain 248-249). Additionally, vanilla has been used as a metaphor for whiteness and chocolate as a metaphor for blackness (Martin). In an interview in a NPR article, Harryette Mullen, poet and professor at UCLA, describes “the white versus colorful- “colored”- and the chocolate versus plain vanilla” metaphor, also saying “so it’s a way of reversing the kind of implied superiority of whiteness by saying that whiteness is the less interesting color… because it’s maintained as a norm. And we also having some ideas of how normal is desired but also boring” (Chow). The advertisement shows the white woman initially as “normal,” potentially bland before consuming chocolate and becoming sexualized. The depiction reifies these perceptions, which do not place evenly the shame of sexuality upon white and black women. In the advertisement, the white woman resorts back to normal life, without any negative perception in terms of her morality that is associated with eating chocolate and the implied sexual indulgence.

My advertisement is a response to this sexualization and objectification of women. In the current advertisement, Dove attempts to appeal to nature, linking chocolate as an aphrodisiac with an innate, natural desire in women. In many chocolate advertisements, chocolate is portrayed as a natural product, through a lens of sensuality (Robertson 1).

Chocolate advertisement

My advertisement seeks to maintain this appeal to nature without the problematic portrayal of women. In this case, the Dove product is bringing the element of nature to a supermarket aisle. In the advertisement, instead of the woman being placed in the natural context, and therefore becoming a proxy for the product in a sense, she remains external to the product, a consumer with authority. I chose to include color solely for the trees and the Dove product to differentiate it from the realm of everyday, supermarket shopping. In this way, the Dove product is presented as an alternative to the industrialization that is ubiquitous in our world (which would be represented by the lack of color and vibrancy). As this advertisement relates to the environment, potentially this would be a way to capture interest from those who are conscious about environmental sustainability. Another possibility could be to also include a man shopping in a similar fashion to push back on perceptions of women being the only consumers of chocolate. Since advertisements can often perpetuate problematic societal perceptions, creating positive images could help in altering those views.

 

 

Sources:

 

Rain, Patricia. Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor And Fragrance. Penguin Group USA, 2008. Print.

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

Martin, Carla. Lecture 9, Slide 12

Chow, Kat. “When Vanilla Was Brown And How We Came To See It As White.” NPR. NPR. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. <http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/03/23/291525991/when-vanilla-was-brown-and-how-we-came-to-see-it-as-white&gt;.

The False Narrative of Chocolate & Female Sexuality, and the Importance of Promoting Chocolate to Women Without Degradation

Image
Advertisement for Dove’s Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate bar from the “My Moment. My Dove.” campaign (2008).

Historically, chocolate has been considered an aphrodisiac, associated with love and sex, and perceived in highly gendered ways, with evidence of this in the Aztec culture and Victorian Era, for example (Martin). Modern advertising narratives, such as the Cadbury Flake ad featuring a woman in a bath, continue these traditional themes associated with chocolate by selling the candy with highly sexualized, erotic images and messages. Chocolate advertisers frequently depict the experience of consuming chocolate as “identical to the pleasure of sex or redeemable for the pleasure of sex” (Anderson). I will examine the Dove ad for their Cranberry Almond Dark Chocolate bar, pictured to the right, and consider how the image, and other chocolate ads, create a harmful narrative around chocolate and female sexuality. Too often, they promote a notion of women as weak objects, who, once exposed to the influence of chocolate, which serves as an alternative to men, are completely powerless.

The Dove ad is not true to the actual product: the cranberry almond bar is not a substitute for sex and it will not incapacitate the woman by providing her with irresistible physical satisfaction. By obscuring the reality of the product and depicting women as easily, irrationally entranced by chocolate, and by extension, as helpless, I contend that ads like this Dove ad are promoting an injurious characterization of women as objects without agency, and without interests beyond satisfying their own pleasure. It is important to consider the effects of these messages on female self-perception, and work to create ads that instead more accurately celebrate chocolate as a tasty sweet, rather than a “sexual surrogate” (Kawash), and women as real people with depth and personality.

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This ad for Magnum Chocolate is one example of the preponderance of ads suggesting that women share sexual experience with chocolate.

Samira Kawash, author of Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure, notes the “overt sexuality” of the Dove ad, which she describes as featuring a “lithe woman caressed by brown silk, writhing in pleasure” (Kawash). Upon first glance, the viewer notices a woman wrapped up in a silky brown material with an expression of pure bliss. Her eyes are closed, her features are soft, and her expression is one of peaceful ecstasy. She is certainly in rapture, but her face has been molded in a way so as to not create a dramatic appearance, so she does not appear too powerful. The ad focuses on the comprehensive sum of the different elements of the image: the woman’s euphoric expression, the silky folds of the fabric, the soft lighting, and the suggestive overlaying words.

Noticeably, the whole advertisement is tinted brown and it is difficult to discern sharp boundaries between the woman’s face, her hair, and the silky cloth that is wrapped around her. Dove has carefully crafted and edited the image so as to make the woman in bed resemble creamy chocolate in hue and texture. It is if chocolate is literally taking over the woman because of its overpowering effect on her. She is a remarkably flat figure and resembles a painted face, rather than an individual with a personality, sense of self, and means of influence.

The words at the bottom of the advertisement further reinforce the overt sexual connotations of the image and characterize the woman as easily seduced and without agency: “Now it can last longer than you can resist. Unwrap. Indulge. Repeat.”

ad_redesign.jpg
My re-designed Dove ad, working to promote a more realistic characterization of chocolate and a positive depiction of women.

My re-designed ad celebrates women as strong, dynamic beings, and markets Dove chocolate for what it is — a sweet. The new ad focuses on the women’s actions, namely, their decision to go for a bike ride together, rather than their sexual satisfaction. It shows that women are strong and in control; they enjoy adventures, represented through biking, and sweets, presumably chocolate, and will not be manipulated or lulled into an euphoric slumber by a mere candy. Furthermore, I incorporated three women into the advertisement to suggest the social nature of chocolate as a food to be shared among friends, rather than an erotic object or substitute for sex that is enjoyed alone in one’s bed, as the initial advertisement suggests with the shrouded woman. The new slogan, “Now life can be full of adventures and sweets,” promotes chocolate as a delicious addition to an active life, rather than an instrument to prod female sexuality.

Considering that most chocolate, and certainly the “My Dove, My Moment” ad, is targeted at women, the implicit messages of female degradation have a negative effect on self-perception. The re-designed ad takes the opportunity to reach so many female consumers to convey a positive, uplifting message by featuring women who are engaged with the world around them and with one another. Dove chocolate will provide women with “sweet” support in their active lives.

 

Works Cited:

Anderson, L.V. “Cuckoo for Chocolate.” Slate Magazine. Slate.com, 13 Feb 2012. Web.

Cadbury’s Flake: Deliciously Terrifying. Video. YouTube. N.p., 2 Mar 2010. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM4rfqcHtNo&gt;.>.

Cranberry Almond Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate. Digital image. Calorie Count. N.p., 2016. Web. <https://www.caloriecount.com/calories-dove-cranberry-almond-silky-smooth-i132158&gt;.

Dove Ad. Digital image. The Society Pages. N.p., n.d. Web. <https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg&gt;.

Magnum Chocolate Ad in Beautiful HD. Digital image. YouTube. N.p., 9 May 2011. Web. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZM4rfqcHtNo&gt;.

Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times. The New York Times Online,, 13 Feb 2014. Web.

 
Martin, Carla, PhD. “Chocolate expansion.” AFAM 199X. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium, Cambridge. 10 Feb. 2016. Lecture.

Better Than Sex

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.21.28 PM
Source: http://media260chocolate.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2014/03/03/godiva-appeals-to-women-with-diva-campaign/

 

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 11.21.44 PM
Source: http://media260chocolate.qwriting.qc.cuny.edu/2014/03/03/godiva-appeals-to-women-with-diva-campaign/

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.

References:

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

Dove: Choose Pleasure. A critique on the fetishization of women in chocolate ads.

Introduction

One of the ‘Big Five,’ Mars Chocolate, has once again set about marketing their latest creation: DOVE Fruit and Nut Blends. This particular campaign is being advertised in the U.S. market, however, the fetishization of women in connection to selling chocolate is not limited to North America, Mars, nor the chocolate industry. Robertson (2009) develops a narrative where the consumption of chocolate became feminized early on in the West. Robertson describes women as the household adult having purchasing power and (after seeing a commercial geared toward this power), wanting to do right by her children and husband and thus finding a way to satisfy their chocolate needs. However, Robertson, describes a shift in advertising post WWII (1940s and 1950s), where the housewife becomes a magical figure and both she and the product end up becoming fetishized. Fast forward to the current DOVE Chocolate commercial being played out today: A light-skinned woman of uncertain ethnic descent appears in the first second of the 30 second video, but the viewer does not get familiar with her face because it will become evident that the commercial is not about her, rather her expressions and the way her body seemingly responds to this new fruit and nut dark chocolate blend. It is well established that advertising firms should know their audience and market, however, the sensuality seen in recent chocolate commercials is a bit perplexing. If it is really about the chocolate, then the chocolate should be able to sell itself or not rely too heavily on the woman being featured.

See stills taken from the video below:

DOVE Chocolate

Dove advert_video stills

See commercial at this link (current user plan does not allow embedding video at this time): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WwZa8qDTmY

Video credits and information: 
Length: 30 seconds
Released: March 2016, U.S.
BBND-NY Advertising Agency
Production Company: The Joinery
Directed by: Ozan Biron

In “Who’s winning China’s chocolate war?,” Mars has emerged as the victor, but by far, (34% of national consumption), their DOVE brand reigns supreme within the Chinese market. It is interesting to see Mars come out on top because Allen (2010), was emphatic about the Big Five finding their niche in the vast Chinese market. Specifically, Allen asserted that the chocolate company with the ability to make their brand stand out would win over the Chinese consumer. Allen pointed to the traditional gift-giving practice that chocolate could play-but this would mean focusing on the packaging. Where an American consumer might eat the whole chocolate bar in one sitting without paying much attention to the packaging, the Chinese consumer would be selective in choosing the chocolate bar or bag because it would be given as a gift.

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Photo credit: Huffington Post

The U.S. market favors Mars DOVE brand as well. The Huffington Post looked at America’s favorite chocolates and DOVE performed quite well, going above other giants like Cadbury and Hershey’s.

But again, we have to question Mars motivation in featuring a woman in the throes of passion, writhing her way in and out of shot. The DOVE commercial does exhibit great visual effects to showcase the “stars” of the new chocolate blend being advertised, however, but even these are very sensual. The fruit has chocolate poured over it and then there are bursts as shot after shot capture the movement of fruit, nuts, and chocolate being melded as one.

Alternative Advertisement

Dove-fruit and nut advert

The alternate way of advertising DOVE’s Fruit and Nut Blends is simply by focusing on those very things. The fruit does take on a few characteristics that could be interpreted to be gender-specific, but it is all in the eye of the beholder. The nuts dance about as the dark chocolate rains from above.

Relevantly, Robertson (2009) writes that chocolate lends itself to fantasy-sometimes this illusion is one of sensuality and excess- but why must it always be women who go crazy and lose their minds? Advertisements can be witty and enticing without being sexual. DOVE Chocolate already enjoys a good share of the market and the chocolate should be able to sell itself on its own merits; in this case, whether it be for the American or Chinese consumer. The dominant query for this particular DOVE advertisement was actually about the music, not the chocolate. To sum, if DOVE wants conversation and buzz to swirl around their latest creation, it should be focused on what is different about this chocolate versus their last.

References

Allen, L.L. (2010). Chocolate fortunes: The battle for the hearts, minds, and wallets of China’s consumers. New York: AMACOM.

Doland, A. (2014, December 8). Who’s winning China’s chocolate war? Retrieved from: http://adage.com/article/print-edition/winning-china-s-chocolate-war/296091/

Robertson, E. (2009). Chocolate, women, and empire. New York: Manchester University Press.

Tepper, R. (2013, February 6). America’s most and least favorite chocolates. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/06/valentines-day-chocolate_n_2632330.html

 

Sexism, Racism, Colorism and Chocolate

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Supermodel icon Naomi Campbell. photo: the gaurdian

Founded in 1824, Cadbury is no stranger to controversy and has created a legacy of producing stereotypical, racially insensitive advertisements. A few examples are the infamous Drumming Gorilla (2007); and the Mastication for the Nation (2009). Although these advertisements negatively impacted and offended consumers of color in a hurtful way, the Cadbury brand continued to ignore and exploit the offenses for financial gain. In this instance, Cadbury compared their Dairy Milk Bliss Bar to Naomi Campbell–an iconic supermodel of European nationality and Black ethnicity. Campbell, nationally known, recognized and worshipped for her striking features and beauty, signature runway walk, and flawless brown skin; also became known for having violent physical outbursts and tantrums. It is the latter of Campbell’s reputation that Cadbury used to both explain and defend the source of inspiration for the Bliss Bar advertisement. In my critical analysis, I consider Cadbury’s history of racially inappropriate ads; lack of sensitivity to people of color; and refusal to address and eliminate overarching racist themes in their advertisements. Finally, I create an alternative advertisement, which introduces the three new flavours of the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar, inviting diversity through inclusion.

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Cadbury’s infamous Dairy Milk Bliss chocolate ad. photo: theguardian

In 2011, Cadbury ran a campaign to introduce its Dairy Milk Bliss Bar in three new flavors (Chocolate Truffle, Toffee Truffle & Hazelnut Truffle). The image is simple: the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar mounted atop a montage of diamonds. But it is the tagline that sucks the life from its debut launch: “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town.” The lifeless ad drew immediate criticism and was hailed as racist among consumers, civil rights leaders/organizations, and most importantly–Campbell herself. Not only was Campbell “shocked and hurt to see her name next to the chocolate bar,” (Daily Reporter, 2011) but felt that being likened to a chocolate bar was in “poor taste on [many] levels” (TheGuardian). Campbell shamed the ad as an “insult to black women” (TheGuardian). Cadbury, who initially defended the ad, citing its creative inspiration with a “tongue-in-cheek play on her reputation for diva-style tantrums,” (TheGuardian) denied that Campbell’s skin color and ethnicity played any factor. Nevertheless, their explanation did not appease the public or civil rights organizations who called for an apology and boycott of Cadbury, which forced Cadbury (who initially refused) to issue an apology to Campbell, her family, and consumers–later pulling the ad.

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Cadbury’s controversial ‘Drumming Gorilla’ ad (2007). photo: theguardian

As the old saying goes: ‘this ain’t their first rodeo!’ That said, I find Cadbury’s apology to be disingenuous. Even if their claim to “poke fun” at Campbell’s “diva” tantrums is true, the word diva itself is a sexist, misogynistic term, used to describe a woman who is demanding, hard to work with, temperamental and superior. Furthermore, was Campbell the only celebrity making headlines for bad behavior? According to FOX News, and US Weekly Magazine, the majority of 2010 and 2011’s biggest celebrity meltdowns were by white men. So why did Cadbury choose to target Campbell specifically? Furthermore, why was her behavior significant enough to warrant a national advertising campaign as opposed to other celebrities? Lastly, how did the connotation of the tagline connect with other sociohistorical themes and stereotypes?

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Cadbury’s attempt to publicly apologize to Campbell in yet another ad.  photo: theguardian

Historically and in present day society, dark colored chocolate is associated with wickedness and impurity; whereas white chocolate is associated with goodness and purity. This is a historical perception that is deified in racism. In the Bliss Bar ad, the chocolate bar is surrounded by white diamonds and a bright-colored background. I believe the imagery was created to distract from the dark, wicked perception of chocolate in contrast with what is acceptable and desirable. In another equally racist and misogynistic chocolate advertisement which appeared in the British editions of women’s global magazines: African women with dark chocolate skin were pictured with a tagline themed “women with attitude,” (Leissle, p. 124) despite the fact that there was no “attitude” upon their countenance. In a world dominated by white men, women have historically been objectified to sell products. However, women of color are usually typecast with themes of negativity or aggression, while white women are cast as well-mannered, welcoming and desirable.

As women of color, there is also a deeper, complex issue that factors into racism: colorism. In colorism, people of color with lighter skin are perceived as more favorable and desirable; where people of darker skin are perceived as less favorable, undesirable and aggressive. These false stereotypes carry deep ancestral history. Although Campbell’s public persona may have contributed to the Bliss Bar ad, the narrative was intended to objectify her skin color and ethnicity in a way that was unfavorable and undesirable.

 

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My version of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss Bar advertisement. Inclusion.

In my advertisement, I create an invitation for the world to be introduced to the Bliss Bars new flavours. I intentionally excluded all references to race, sex and ethnicity for the purposes of objectifying our common love and desire for chocolate. By choosing to focus on our commonalities and shared love for chocolate, we all feel included. My wish for Cadbury is that they eliminate the racial undertones and narratives of their advertisements. Thereby, choosing to task themselves in becoming aware and sensitized to why people of color feel exploited, humiliated and dehumanized by their advertisements. Inasmuch, their most racially offensive ads have been created by an agency, Fallon, who clearly lacks sensitivity to racist connotations, imagery and historical context. Maybe therein lies an arrogant resistance to humility and responsibility. Perhaps Cadbury should allow Campbell to stay… and invite Fallon to ‘move over.’ Permanently.

 

Works cited

Daily Mail Reporter: Cadbury apologizes to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ advert that compared her to chocolate. June 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1393982/Cadbury-apologises-Naomi-Campbell-racist-advert-compared-chocolate.html

Kristy Leissle (2012): Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Cosmopolitan Journal of African Cultural Studies. 24.2, 121-139.

Mark Sweeney: Cadbury apologizes to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ ad.  TheGuardian. June 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/03/cadbury-naomi-campbell-ad

 

 

Luxury and Female Sexual Pleasure in “Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate”

A day spent in the western world is a day filled with advertisements. Their ubiquity makes the messages that they convey very important. In chocolate advertising, the images used to convey these messages often include women and evoke luxuriousness. While these characteristics are not concerning in themselves, they are often used in a problematic manner in advertising campaigns. An excellent example of this is an advertisement for Dove’s “Cranberry Almond Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate” in 2008. The advertisement contains elements that induce consumers to associate chocolate with high-class and female sexual pleasure, while an alternative advertisement purposefully avoids these problematic themes.

Dove’s “Cranberry Almond Silky Smooth Dark Chocolate”

The image used in the advertisement (shown below) depicts the face of a Caucasian woman with her eyes closed, nestled among folds of silk or satin. The image has soft lighting that creates various hues of brown and gold and casts shadows on the face of the woman and on the folds of the material. She has a faint smile that gives the impression of relaxing pleasure rather than deep sleep.

 

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Image 1 from Dove advertising campaign

This type of pleasure is portrayed to be sexual in nature by the words below the image that include the phrase “now it can last longer than you can resist.” The wording is clearly alluding to the time it takes a woman to climax and implying that the chocolate is so good and it lasts in your mouth so long that it will cause this intense pleasure. The dim, soft lighting also contributes to the sexualization of the woman in the advertisement by portraying a romantic, beautiful, sensual image. Again, the pleasure indicated by the woman’s smile also appears to indicate recent sexual satisfaction. Indeed, this advertisement not only contains connotations of sexual pleasure, but portrays the chocolate itself as inducing a pleasure that is orgasmic. I am not aware of any cases of chocolate consumption that have resulted in orgasms for males or females, so portraying it as such reduces and simplifies a woman’s sexuality. These images and themes appear to be intentional as another advertisement in the Dove campaign series contains many similar elements (see below).

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Image 2 from Dove advertising campaign

This link between chocolate and sex was especially pushed in advertisements for luxury chocolates (Robertson 2009). This tactic remained popular for about the first three-fourths of the twentieth century, and appears to be being used here (Robertson 2009). The rich folds of material in the image imply luxury and high-class or status. In the early 1900s, advertisements from British chocolatiers displayed elegantly dressed blindfolded females choosing the “best” chocolate – conveying chocolate as something luxurious and tying in female sexuality (Robertson 2009). These types of advertisements encouraged “other consumers to aspire to the social distinction afforded by drinking and serving the best cocoa” (Robertson 2009: 26). This pushed the idea that spending money on chocolate was important to show wealth and sophistication – an idea that could be harmful to individuals who didn’t have as much disposable income as the wealthy. Thus, the advertisement is targeting women who want the intense pleasure supposedly derived from consuming chocolate, and the luxuriousness that is associated with it.

 

An Alternative Ad

A more honest, yet still effective, advertisement that does not stereotype women as seeking pleasure and luxury in their chocolate, is shown below.

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A Harvard student eating chocolate after an unpleasant meal in the dining hall

A woman is featured in this advertisement, but she is not in a sexual position, displays no form of sexual yearning, and is not surrounded by images of high-class and luxury (although the “Harvard” text does imply great privilege). This advertisement aims to target the Harvard community by using humor and identifying a common sentiment, all the while creating a more complex image surrounding the female consumer.

She is staring thoughtfully at the chocolate and has on a Harvard sweatshirt and Harvard ring. These images give the impression of competence, intelligence, and agency. She is making an informed choice in eating the chocolate. The text and setting also differentiate this advertisement from the Dove one. She is not wrapped in fabric, but sitting in the dining hall, where consumption of food is common. She is choosing to consume the chocolate as a solution to the foul taste of the food of Harvard University Dining Services, rather than as a solution to her desire for sexual pleasure.

Just as one advertising campaign of Divine Chocolate sought to present the women behind the chocolate as more complex and professional than stereotypes of African cacao workers allow (Leissle 2012), this advertisement attempts to present the female consumer as choosing chocolate for reasons other than a stereotyped sexual satisfaction. Chocolate companies often choose to portray luxury and female sexual pleasure in their advertising campaigns, but they would do well to consider other themes that go beyond stereotype.

 

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-139.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.