In a study published during the 1980’s, sociologist Marjorie Ferguson identified four types of facial expression in the cover photos of women’s magazines.
Number one, on a scale of increasing emotion and animation, is the “Chocolate Box” expression, described as a half or full smile, with the lips together or slightly parted, and the face full or three-quarters to camera. The projected mood aims to be soft and sweet, not too hot or cold (a warm bath kind of warm ), where the uniformity of the woman’s features in their “smooth perfection” (like the surface of a chocolate) is more important than her quirks or individuality.
The soft “Chocolate Box” expression.
Perhaps all Ferguson’s categories could be described as chocolate box because the look not only epitomises a certain kind of female beauty (young, attractive, appealing), but also encompasses a wide range of emotions and desires, some a hotter than others.
The second expression on Ferguson’s scale is the “Invitational” look, which emphasis the eyes, has the head to one side looking back at the camera, and is mischievous and mysterious in nature.
The “Super Smiler”, with the full face open smile, often with wind-blown hair, is enthusiastic, demanding and exciting.
The “Super Smiler” expression – enthusiastic for chocolates and all they stand for.
The fourth expression, the “Romantic or Sexual”, is characterised by wantonness, availability and, as often as not with this look, unashamedly erotic.
Although Ferguson’s study was carried out decades ago, the expressions she categorised continue to be found on the covers of women’s magazines today. This suggests that even when not directly connected to chocolates the so-called Milk Tray Approach is still a powerful, enduring and successful marketing strategy.