There are few things I consider myself to be an expert on in this world, and one of those things is candy. So you'll have to forgive my rage when it comes to the Fling.
Debuting in the United States after a run in Australia, M&M/Mars brings us the Fling bar, a "lite" candy bar designed to take all of the flavor and fun out of candy and replace it with pink! and sparkles! and low calorie filling! Because women are like so totally into like sparkles and shit that they won't mind eating a candy bar laced with mica, you guys! For real! And perhaps if the candy shimmers enough, our insides won't recognize that we are eating the candy equivalent of a Sex in the City sequel instead of say, a Snickers bar. As Andy Wright of Mother Jones writes , "Couple this with the oppressive pinkness of the campaign, and one is left wondering when marketers will figure out that in order to make women buy things, they do not have to, literally, shove sparkles down their throats."
The campaign that Wright is referencing is the Fling marketing blitz that paints the bar as a naughty, sparkly little secret for chocolate-obsessed women. "Your boyfriend doesn't need to know," is one of the themes of the campaign— because god forbid a man see you eat chocolate! What would he think!? What would he say?! THE HORROR, you guys!
The Fling bar is just the latest in a series of products marketed toward women; both Dove Promises and Hershey's Bliss, two perfectly delicious chocolates, market themselves as some sort of spa retreat in a metallic wrapper. Dove Promises also list a groan-inducing "inspirational" message on the inside of each wrapper, like, "love is a flower, friendship is a sheltering tree." Now I love candy beyond all things. And I love Dove Promises. But I hate buying them, because there's a "aww, pathetic lady!" stigma attached to them, thanks to the commercials, that makes me feel like an ass each time I put them on the grocery store conveyor belt.
The concept of "indulgent" candy marketing is this: women may not be willing to drop the money they once did on expensive items for themselves, but they might be willing to treat themselves with a slightly fancier piece of chocolate. Small indulgences, like paying an extra 2 bucks for quality chocolate, will be the next big push. Because ladies, you are worth it, and so on and so forth. The strange thing about Fling, however, is that unlike Dove Promises and Hershey's Bliss, which seem to push the idea that you should buy this candy proudly because you deserve it, Fling pushes the notion that candy buying is something to be slightly discreet and embarrassed about. As Cybele at Candyblog notes, "It's packaged like tampons (the individual fingers sold in stand up boxes moreso), so maybe it gives women who are embarrassed to be seen with a chocolate bar a more discrete package to disguise it."
What the candy companies don't quite understand is that for those of us who truly love candy, we don't see it as gender-specific. And for every bar like the "Fling," which CandyAddict.com described as "a wanna-be Twix, minus the caramel," that arrives, the idea that candy is something women should feel guilty or careful about is perpetuated, leading to a public perception that some things are "bad" and "good" for women to eat. It's already happened with frozen dinners: you never see a man sitting down to eat a Lean Cuisine in a commercial; the men are always marketed a Hungry Man dinner, complete with "one pound of food!"
Will the Fling bar be successful? Probably, for a while, based on curiosity alone. But the shadiness of marketing a bar to women who clearly aren't comfortable with food and therefore need to view their candy as a "secret" or something to be incredibly sneaky about is just disappointing and gross, and even if the chocolate below the wrapper is delicious, there's a sense of bad taste that already overwhelms the product. And besides, why have a Fling with a novelty bar when you can have a lifelong relationship with a Snickers? I mean, really.
Finally, Candy Makers Market Directly To Women With Food Issues [MotherJones]
Candy Review: Fling Chocolate [CandyAddict]
Fling Review [Candyblog]