Marketing and Merchandising Tactics that are Indicative of a Larger Problem

This is one of those stories that reveals a bit of societal conditioning that makes me sad.

This campaign for a new chocolate bar was introduced recently by Cadbury Schweppes. (You should click through just to see the cartoon drawing of the anthropomorphized candy and beverages joining hands with a batch of human friends, including, rather embarrassingly, one person unsubtly colored in brown in the background – note that all the products have white arms and legs – it looks like they’re about to burst into “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” except that’s the wrong company.)

Now that we’ve gotten beyond that, the strategy is to place the new 100-calorie Cadbury Thin bar in places other than in the traditional spot near the cash register, as they’ve discovered through research that “calorie-counting chocolate lovers” (I swear, that’s how they say it in the article, so they don’t have to come out and say “women”) are basically ashamed to add a chocolate bar to their purchase while standing in the checkout line.

So instead, they put the “discrete” (sic) display in cosmetics aisles, which are a place which fosters healthy thinking about and confidence in a calorie-counting chocolate lover’s appearance.

They’ve obviously understood a piece of their target’s behavior. Now, will this attempt to appeal to her be seen as helpful? Will women appreciate the bit of “cover” that they’re provided, or will they resent being tempted in one more place? This sounds like enabling behavior, doesn’t it?

It doesn’t matter if it sells candy bars, right? And having twice as many displays, whatever the elaborate research-based story about a calorie-counting chocolate lover’s feelings and preferences you promote to push it, will tend to sell more candy bars.

Maybe we should cut back on the sweets anyway, right? Maybe a little shame is in order, some of you might say, based on how many Americans are obese.

Full Disclosure: I wrote this while nibbling on a square of a Vosges Oaxaca Bar, and I am not ashamed.