Chocolate without culture: asocial?

In Italy, it is often nibbled as an accompaniment to an espresso. British mothers love to indulge – but not in front of their children. The French ideal is the pure, plain variety. And in Germany, eating large quantities is frowned upon as unhealthy: chocolate. Given this spectrum of cultural attitudes towards chocolate, is it actually possible to come up with a uniform marketing strategy for chocolate products which would be effective across Europe?
There is far more to eating chocolate than meets the eye, particularly when you consider the national peculiarities associated with this delicacy. Having analysed the findings from a lengthy series of depth interviews, rheingold came to the conclusion that such culturally determined behaviour and peculiarities cannot be side-stepped by companies aiming to market chocolate in different countries.

Italians, for instance, enjoy eating chocolate in public – in cafés or restaurants. By contrast, in Britain or Germany, chocolate is usually savoured in far more intimate surroundings, usually in the comfort of the home. It is also of particular importance for English mothers to bring their children up to be cultivated and – above all – strong-willed. In this respect, eating chocolate is seen as being rather counterproductive and, as such, parents tend to avoid eating chocolate when their children are around.

However, there is a psychological common ground which unites chocolate-eaters of all nations: The ‘hardships’ of everyday life are soothed with the help of chocolate. It offers comfort and – even if it is only for a moment or two – whisks the eater away to
a kind of ‘comfort zone’ in which the problems and trials of everyday life can be forgotten. This narcissistic comfort zone is self-obsessed, egotistical and is also fundamentally asocial, i.e. it rejects the capacity for social interaction.

All communication activities relating to chocolate must contain an element of this narcissistic comfort zone, but without overstepping the mark. Chocolate-eating is essentially asocial – and this is precisely why social or cultural structures are required. Using country-specific images of cultivation as well as different types of chocolate (bars, individual chocolates etc.) the basic subject is varied and made relevant to everyday life.

In terms of addressing chocolate-eaters worldwide, this means: there is a common ground – the narcissistic comfort zone – which is always addressed, but only to a limited extent. This must always be countered by social structures which are intrinsically cultural. Above and beyond the highly charged narcissistic psychological core of chocolate, it is practically impossible to address all cultural areas effectively using a single strategy. However, it is possible to differentiate cultural areas which reveal considerable similarities in their cultural attitude towards chocolate. These cultural clusters can be determined empirically and can also be targeted with a uniform marketing and communication strategy.

© 2015 rheingold