Bruce McColl, Global CMO at Mars, explains how the company’s philosophy of ‘mutuality’ is reflected in its brands and how they are measured against both their financial and social performance.

The concept of ‘mutuality’ is central at Mars, articulated back in 1947 by Forrest Mars Sr. himself. It means ensuring a win-win partnership with all the stakeholders we work with.

We believe something that delivers mutual benefit will sustain and endure. That’s our company purpose, if you like. It explains how we go about sourcing raw materials, why we seek cocoa certification and why we invest in renewable energies.

And we apply the same ethos to our brands. To be successful, mutuality needs to be built into the brand and purpose, or brand belief as we call it, needs to drive brand performance. Our experience tells us that campaigns and partnerships that deliver brand performance endure longer and are more likely to expand into other markets.

Four years ago, we looked at why some of our campaigns were not as successful as we wanted in terms of delivering mutuality. We discovered few that scaled across multiple markets and were long-lived. Not good for our brands or the cause partners.

Unsurprisingly, the key differentiator was the ability to drive sales.

At the same time we launched a series of pilots using four of our biggest brands in ten markets and tracked them against social and financial performance metrics. This enabled us to identify some key factors that played a part in success and failure.

Critical to growth is our ability to drive our brands’ physical availability in store and getting retailers excited about our initiatives.

Then it’s about earned media; our ability to generate mental awareness for our campaigns, be that through our partners, social media or other forms of communications.

We learned that schemes worked less well if we changed our packaging. Looking to promote campaigns on pack was often proving an impediment to consumers’ ability to navigate the shelf.

It’s critical to recognize when purpose can resonate and when it can impede performance. And the reality is that still only a small proportion of the population will connect with your purpose.

Most shoppers flip into auto-pilot; loyal to a repertoire of brands, they make many purchases in a short period of time. Our brands need to be easier to find by making them more physically and mentally available through all forms of media.

We were also able to identify what we call non-working media set-up costs, hence our emphasis on developing programmes that can be rolled out to multiple markets. A universal and scalable insight means core materials can be re-used with local adaptations.

And it cannot be under-estimated how purposeful programmes can inspire associates. We’re working on pilots for Extra Gum to improve oral hygiene in Ghana. We’ve taken sales associates to local clinics and they are able to tell first hand stories to the retail trade, helping to give powerful meaning to our efforts. This helps drive an uncommon level of collaboration with our agency and retail partners.

We now have cause campaigns on seven of our brands in markets around the world. For example, our Whiskas partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, launched last year in the UK and scaling to three other markets this year, is based on the insight that pet owners recognize there’s a little tiger in every cat. Our social metric is to double the number of tigers globally by 2020.

One of our more established campaigns is Pedigree’s support for dog shelters that feed and look after dogs. This is now running in more than forty countries. We are measuring the number of meals we can provide to shelter dogs as it is much easier to find homes for healthy dogs.

This autumn, we’ll be launching Ben’s Beginners in the UK. It’s a programme that started in the US three years ago and is now in 12 different markets. It’s designed to encourage kids to cook and has already had a huge impact in terms of earned media.

You can take the approach that purposeful projects are great to do when you’re having a good year. Or you can recognize that purpose can actually help you have a good year. That’s the game changer.

How can Project Reconnect help you?

Sharing examples of what works across organisations is incredibly powerful and inspiring.  Project Reconnect is critical for us to help make marketing credible both internally and externally so that both business and society can look to marketing to take the lead in impacting society in a positive way.


This article was originally published in Marketing Week's Project Reconnect column. You can find the article here.