Godiva is challenging the norms of Valentine’s Day gift-giving in Japan by urging people to only give to those who actually mean something to them.
The Belgian confectionary brand announced its stance with an ad in the Nikkei newspaper: a message from Jerome Chouchan, managing director for Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, asking Japan to end the practice of ‘giri choco’—obligatory gifting of chocolates to colleagues and acquaintances on Valentine’s Day.
The message notes that the tradition is tiresome for women (since in Japan women are obliged to give chocolates to men on Valentine’s Day) and that they feel relief when Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend, because they can then opt out of the soulless routine of handing out chocolates to their male counterparts at the office.
It makes no mention of White Day, when men are expected to return the favour, but the same sentiment presumably applies.
According to Godiva, Valentine’s Day should be taken as a time to express genuine affection for people. While the brand may be more expensive than typical ‘giri’ chocolates, it has succeeded in opening up a lively conversation around the topic on social media—as well as giving a new platform for the brands that benefit from ‘giri’. Black Thunder, a low-price chocolate bar, took to Twitter to announce its support for obligatory gifting, stating “you can tell at a glance that this is ‘giri choco’”.
とある広告が話題のようですね(‘-‘*)— ブラックサンダーさん（有楽製菓公式）＠プレミアム義理チョコショップ (@Black_Thunder_) February 1, 2018
Godiva's Valentine’s campaign extends across other media, including train ads, although the message appears to come through strongest in the initial newspaper ad.
Campaign’s view: As we said, Godiva does not fall into the regular ‘obligation chocolates’ bracket. But it is in competition with all chocolate brands to some extent, and this helps raise its voice above the crowd and the usual sea of blandness that surrounds Valentine’s Day. With an extremely low-tech approach, Godiva has shown itself to be the rarest of things—a chocolate brand that actually has something to say, without being too serious of course.
Ryoko Tasaki contributed to this article.