Fling

Just when you thought chocolate and sex were safely separated by a impenetrable wall, Mars debuts Fling, a chocolate bar aimed at women. And by “aimed at women” of course we’re talking about lots of pink, some kind of edible synthetic sparkle goo, and marketing jam-packed with double entendres and sexual innuendoes. Let’s take a look.

Ok, so women like chocolate. Good for them. And apparently, since they’re all watching their weight, the new Fling clocks in at a mere 85 calories (per finger). So you can eat them without feeling [too] guilty. My observation, however, is that the girls who are empowered to go for the chocolate go hardcore — dark, rich, intense, expensive chocolates are what women buy for themselves. Hershey Bars are for 7-year-old boys, thanks very much.

An interesting innovation in the realm of chocolate aesthetics is something called Mica, a mineral which adds a glittery effect to the surface of the chocolate itself! Well, if the FDA approved it, it has to be good. (Does anyone else see an ironic connection to Fen-Phen and Redux?) Mars hasn’t introduced a new candy brand in 20 years, apparently, so they must have done their homework before they decided to fling Fling upon us.

Pleasure Yourself

And as for the marketing, well, it’s pretty transparent. Sex sells, even to women. It starts with the cheeky tagline “Pleasure Yourself” and the reference to each individual candy-stick as a “finger.” It doesn’t take a genius to make the connection.

Wrapped in a shiny pink and sliver package, this delicate “chocolate finger” is intended for women. The word “finger” is an industry term for a long, slim confection, Mars spokesman Ryan Bowling says, but with ads that invite you to “Pleasure yourself” in pink lettering, consumers might come to other conclusions.

Even the name itself, Fling, is vaguely sexual. These days, it seems savvy, urban-dwelling women are encouraged to own their relationships, and stop waiting for a Prince Charming character. Start with your chocolate, I guess.

And of course some oddly awkward television advertising has followed. Making use the classic “switch” device, these ads are already playing in California, the only state thus far where Fling is available. (Strange considering these are basically invented for the Carrie Bradshaw set. It might have been nice to release this with the Sex and The City movie.)

Clever.

The question on my mind is a simple one: do we need chocolate “for women”? Is this simply pandering to women and reinforcing the somewhat artificial boundaries between demographic groups? In this age of consumerism, it seems the values of the product will become apparent without all the spin — a low-calorie chocolate that tastes good will fly off shelves by itself (and word-of-mouth) so why force things by wading into the still-treacherous waters of gender-socio-politics?

Yorkie

Then again, I have to cite the immensely successful campaign from the UK for Yorkie bar. Tagged as “Not For Girls”, the candy bar shot skyward in popularity for both sexes. The re-design, by Williams Murray Hamm c.2002, led to this, which is one of my favourite ads ever.

So maybe chocolate for girls is just the thing to bring some excitement back to the candy isle of your local drug store. Let’s just hope they keep away from the sappiness of supermarket romance novels.

I meant to write about this way back in May, when the story broke on NPR, but I have to give props to Stephanie Murg from UnBeige who scooped me recently, and with more content than the original story.

UPDATE: NPR didn’t break the story because it was written about previously by Cybele from Candy Blog. In fact, her post has tons of info, and dates from February 2009. So I’m even more behind the times than I realised. Oops.