Sunday, March 22, 2009

Chocolate, sometimes nothing else will do.

My Grandmother used to tell me that there’s no such thing as bad booze. I feel the same way about chocolate. There hardly seems a need to use advertising and conditioning for an obsession and so fetching a delight. Nevertheless, the major chocolate manufacturers and retailers use a combination of both classical conditioning and operant conditioning, but mostly classical.

Classical conditioning is the association of chocolate with an appealing stimulus. Hawkins, et al (2007, p 331) inform us that music, holidays and popular personalities are often paired in commercials with chocolate as part of classical conditioning. With chocolate, there is usually an undertone of romance.

Here is a Nestle’s :30 second spot on Youtube with many elements of classical conditioning. An ecstatic cellist. A woman, melting and open. How beautiful she is too. Enchanting music. Nestle's Alpine TV Spot

Latent romance in the popular commercial touched our need for objectification (see Hawkins, 2007, p 367) by having us view the behaviors of “others and [draw] inferences as to what one feels and thinks.” Showing affection in interpersonal relationships can also help satisfy our need for affiliation (p 371).

There is a dark side to chocolate too, an unstated sexual desire. Unstated motives are often driving forces in our culture but unlike manifest motives, are not directly presented (p 375). Instead, indirect appeals through artwork are made.

Hawkins, et al (2007, p 386) further report that “repeated exposure to positive-emotion-eliciting ads may increase brand preference through classical conditioning.” What is an example of such an emotion – they tell us: love. The 1989 commercial above was actually the apex of a multi-year campaign that started in 1986. Here is the Adam ad, notice the Maxfield Parrish theme (this one is a little louder): 1986 Nestle's TV Spot

Nestlé’s does not have a lock on chocolate advertising though. For their part Hershey’s follows suit with a more recent and similar Special Dark :15 spot (much louder): Hershey's :15 Spot

Here Hershey’s employs gold and copper colors to convey richness in the affective interpretation by the consumer, to supplement the same unconditioned stimuli we saw in Nestlé’s. Hawkins, et al (2007 , p 299) give a print ad example with a similar gold and copper color combination for a Godiva chocolate ad, but Hershey’s even gives us the words to associate with the product.

Hershey’s Kisses added a popular personality to the music, Thalia as she covered the Shirelle’s hit It’s in His Kiss: Thalia TV Spot

They also changed colors for the Christmas season and bell-rang a popular carol: Hershey's for the Holidays . Hawkins et al (p 332) use Christmas music as an example of eliciting the emotional responses characteristic of classical conditioning.

Hawkins and crew give other interesting examples of classical conditioning for chocolate candy (p 286): Reese’s Pieces product placement in the movie E.T. It was E.T.’s favorite food and its cinematic use in a natural way resulted in positive transfer to the product and sales jumped 6%.

In their Darwinian competition for attention, the chocolate makers are now exploring non-traditional venues. The response rate for advergames is between 16% and 45%. Additionally, customers spend an average of 25 minutes with our message. Blank (2001, ¶ 1) reports that Hershey’s Chocolate also experienced a phenomenal response rate with advergaming.

According to Ron (2002, ¶ 1), advergaming is a marketing device where the brand elements are an integral part of an online or computer game. Two academic studies have found that classical conditioning in advergaming produces most the most positive attitude (see Bailey, 2008, pp20-1 and Huang, 2005, p 1).

Operant Conditioning
Chocolate candy is a low involvement purchase. Duncan (2005, p 158) notes that conditioned learning is especially active in low involvement purchases. Gum and candy are the examples Duncan uses for low involvement products (p 140).

Operant conditioning works from the consequences of a purchase rather than through forming a positive stimulus for purchase. It rewards purchase “with positive outcomes,” according to Hawkins, et all (p 332) who also give an example of operant conditioning for chocolate candy. A free sample of chocolate in a candy shop resulted in a 25% higher purchase of chocolate. Tools of operant conditioning are free samples, discount coupons and sweepstakes (p 332). All are oriented to “secure an initial trial.”

Hershey’s used sweepstakes. Blank (2001, p 1) observes that the effective campaign used prizes ranging from Sony Play Stations, a one years supply of candy, a trip to Hershey’s Park, and daily prizes earned using the advergames – Reese’s Treasure Hunt and Reese’s Table Tennis. The sweepstakes was part of the advergame reported in classical conditioning.

Huang (2005, p 1) notes there is a secondary operant conditioning effect in advergaming, although the prime effect is from classical conditioning. Stokes, et al explain further (2008, p 9) “where reinforcement or punishment is used to promote specific behaviors,” advergames use operant conditioning to achieve desired behaviors.

Coupons and gift cards are standard fare also. See’s uses coupons as do the others, (See
See's Deals). Sweepstakes too (see See's Sweepstakes ).

ADVERGAMES. Univ. of Missouri. Retrieved on March 17, 2009 from

Blank, C (August 6, 2001). Hershey's Online Push for Reese's Gets Sweet Response. Direct Marketing News. Retrieved on March 16, 2009

Hawkins, Del, David Mothersbaugh and Roger Best (2007). Consumer Behavior. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

Huang, Y (August 7, 2005). The Application of Learning Theory to The Study of Advergaming. Retrieved on March 17, 2009 from

Ron, S (June 27, 2002). Inject Some Fun and Games Into Advertising. Direct Marketing News. Retrieved on March 16, 2009at

Stokes, B, S Seggerman, and D Rejeski (9/28/2008). Digital Games and the Social Change Sector (For a Better World). Retrieved on March 18, 2009 from

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