What Dove Promises Promise Us

ImageI’ve been aware of Dove Promises chocolates for a really long time; I’m almost positive my mom used to pack them in my school lunches. Dove makes really good chocolate, as affordable chocolate goes, and they come in convenient little pieces so that you can exercise portion control eat about a hundred of something delicious without actually dying.

Now my office has them, constantly restocked in a big jar in a kitchen that’s otherwise filled with mostly healthy things. And I’m obsessed. Not with the chocolate (though that’s still great) so much as with the promises. The promises!! Man. The promises.

Each individually-wrapped piece of chocolate has a little message inside the wrapper — a “promise,” presumably — ranging from utterly meaningless (“Enjoy your life today,” to make one up) to bizarrely specific (“Build a snowman and breathe deeply the childlike wonder of winter,” to — not totally without basis — invent another). They all have a few things in common, though: they’re condescending, jaw-droppingly vapid and, if you assume (as I do from the tone) that the product is marketed mainly toward (a certain stereotyped subset of) American women, they’re at least a little bit sexist. Basically: they’re the worst and kind of also the best things in the world. They’re hilarious.

Lots of products are packaged with little messages not related to the product in any way — Snapple has trivia (does Snapple still have trivia? Is there still Snapple?), other on-mainstream soft drinks have quotes, Alaska Airlines used to have Bible cards. Promises strike me as unique, though, in that the name of the product itself leads you to believe that the point is the little three- to nine-word inspirational message printed on the inside of a terribly fragile foil wrapper, and OH JUST BY THE WAY you get a little delicious chocolate, too. The only comp I can think of is fortune cookies; nobody would eat those awful things if not for the message inside. You can get chocolate anywhere: the promise inside is how Dove pays the bills.

Or so suggests the name; it doesn’t seem to work that way. The description on Dove’s official site concludes with “Each piece is wrapped with a special PROMISES® message for a truly unique moment,” but it’s pretty clear it’s the “exceptional, silky smooth chocolate experience” that’s intended to hook you. Dove’s official Facebook page is full of references to Promises, the product, but I can’t find any references to promises, the messages. It turns out that the promises — product name and all — are an archaic figurehead that is best ignored and forgotten; they’re the British royal family to the chocolate’s Parliament.

We can’t have that. Someone writes these things, sits there and thinks about the kinds of things he (I’m just assuming it’s a he) thinks your stereotypical working mom might really want to hear while she’s enjoying her daily chocolate (ACK!!). Someone, or rather a group of someones, makes it possible for them to be printed on the inside of each wrapper. Someone designed the oh-so-sincere “Love, Dove” signature that accompanies each and every one. These contributions cannot simply be cast aside like so many, well, foil chocolate wrappers!

I have in my possession 22 Dove Promises wrappers, containing 14 distinct messages. Some I have collected over several days at work. Some — too many — I consumed the contents of today even though work also had fresh peanut butter cookies and even though I ate one of those too. (This is what I believe is called Dedication to the Craft.)

“Promises”  seems something of a misnomer. The majority of the messages come in the form of little life suggestions, or commands. Of the 14 messages, there are two that could arguably be called “promises,” and even those end up sounding a lot more like advice than actual promises. It’s possible that they started out as literal promises, years ago, but that over time they have evolved (as great art will) into a thing all their own.

I would definitely read a Vanity Fair oral history of Dove Promises.

At any rate, it turns out that Promises* is quite concerned about you — the probably female, probably middle-aged, possibly un- or underemployed, probably nonetheless overworked, probably lonely, probably overeating consumer — and has a lot of advice to offer. Some of it is contradictory, but you know, we’re complex beings, and what we need to hear from our chocolate at one time may conflict with things we need to hear from our chocolate at other times. Some of it is extremely cryptic, but what matters here is what it means to you. Promises works in mysterious ways. Promises does not apologize for the extremely varied- and generally low-quality photographs below, but I do (mousing over the images below will show you the text of the depicted promise).

* Just so we’re clear: from here on out, “Promises” is a singular, self-aware entity who is very concerned with your well-being. Continue reading