One in a Billion: Why the Mars’ Plan is a Stroke of Marketing Genius

September 14, 2017

It’s an understatement to say we’re over inundated with climate change and sustainability news. These threats have become background noise, with most people simply tuning out. To break through this malaise a company has to harness all their marketing and PR know-how. Mars’ September announcement – a $1 billion pledge to become more sustainable in a generation – did just that.

 

The world’s largest candy maker, with a portfolio of favorites like M&Ms, Skittles, and Twix, made the announcement in the lead up to this year’s United Nations General Assembly. Spend will happen across four key areas: renewable energy; food sourcing; cross-industry collaboration; and, inclusive development for farmers. Over the long term, the financial injection will no doubt lead to positive impact in all these areas. For marketers, the announcement holds several lessons in differentiation, cutting through the noise, and top-tier positioning (and for writers, it’s fodder for some memorable acronyms!).

 

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Surprisingly Simple)

I may not know how many zeros one billion has, but I do know it’s a lot of money. By keeping the message surprisingly simple, Mars has been able to avoid the sustainability trap of throwing too much information at stakeholders. Sustainability professionals love to wow with data. Ultimately, though, it muddles our message.

 

Take, for example, Wal-Mart and KeyBank. Both make huge annual investments into their sustainability practices. Wal-Mart and its Foundation put millions each year back into worker well-being throughout their supply chain. KeyBank invested upwards of $3 billion in its renewable energy portfolio over the past decade. The difference? Stakeholders need to go back through records and spend time adding up the totals. Mars has made their investments user-friendly. It’s not $2.7 million per month over the next 30 years. No, it’s just $1 billion.

 

When putting together your marketing message, remember data can only wow once you’ve gotten them through the door. Don’t lead with data, but with an attention-grabbing kiss.

 

S.T.D. (Succinct, Timely, Distributable)

As much as we may fight it, Twitter has re-engineered how we communicate. If you can’t get your message across in 140 characters or less, you’re fighting a losing battle.

 

This can’t just be any message, though. The Holy Grail is to capitalize on concurrent news or events. Mars made their announcement in the lead up to this year’s United Nations General Assembly. The international body is pushing for the realization of their Sustainable Development Goals. A $1 billion pledge will go a long way to making the SDGs a reality and is bound to get a lot of airtime when leaders address the world.

 

Lastly, messages need to go beyond a room of converts. Niche marketing is fine, but of little use when aiming for big impact. What you want is virality. Of course, no one can guarantee anything will go viral. If you’ve done well on being succinct and timely, though, you have a greater chance at more impressions.

 

C.O.C. Block (Compete or Collaborate)

Imagine the next company that gets up to make a big CSR announcement. Things could go one of two ways.

 

“Achem. Today, Acme Enterprises is pleased to announce our new sustainability pledge of, well, not as much as Mars but still pretty good.”

 

Or

 

“We’re excited to announce our commitment to ensuring a sustainable future for all by matching Mars’ $1 billion investment and adding an additional quarter billion for global poverty alleviation.”

 

Mars has certainly thrown the gauntlet. They now have pole position as the most magnanimous corporation regardless of whether they truly have invested more or not. Ultimately, this will force their competitors to raise the stakes to remain relevant. Of course, not all companies will be able to match a $1 billion investment. For them, Mars has opened the door for collaboration. In fact, Mars’ Chief Sustainability Officer noted “…it’s time for companies to accelerate their game and work together…” under the Mars’ banner.

 

Fulcrum would love to hear how your sustainability messaging is cutting through the noise to differentiate and position your business. Tell us in the comments below.

 

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