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Mars’ CMO doesn’t want marketing to return to ‘normal’

With the pandemic causing a prolonged period of global disruption, Mars had a momentous 2020 navigating the 'new normal'. At its helm, Mars' lead chief marketing officer Jane Wakely has helped steer the brand through these choppy waters, driving the transformation agenda of its marketing function so that Mars can arrive on the other side as a better organization.

“I don’t want things to go back to normal,” insists Jane Wakely, lead chief marketing officer at Mars. “Yes, I miss the chats at the coffee machine. But, we want to create a new, better normal. This year has enabled us to mobilize our entire marketing organization.”

As Wakely returns to the ‘office’ after the winter break, she welcomes 2021 as a renewed opportunity to build a better world, and a better business in its wake.

“We had a fantastic year in 2020, but it was a tough year for many of our associates and partners,” she says. “In 2021, we’re looking at how we can make an even more meaningful and measurable difference to the things that matter. That’s what going to guide us.”

Indeed, 2020 was a momentous year for the family-owned brand, as it learned to navigate a prolonged period of global disruption, with a "mechanical breakdown" in March putting a strain on UK supplies. Despite these pressures, Mars' global sales figure for 2020 was approximately $40bn.

Reflecting on Mars' response to the pandemic, Wakely redefines the ‘5Ps of marketing’ to illustrate her teams approach. She explains how the team created a real-time ‘pulse’ to keep on top of how people were feeling, put ‘purpose’ high up on the agenda, ‘pivoted’ its marketing toward digital commerce, learned the ‘pace’ of response, and strengthened its ‘partnerships’.

While she admits: “none of our transformations were new, what the Covid-19 and the climate crisis have done is really focused our minds on making a meaningful and measurable difference.”

Mars first began its brand-building work back in 2019. Aiming to anticipate future changes in consumer attitudes, it began investing in products, brands, processes and consumer relationships, as part of an ongoing strategy that continued throughout 2020.

Wakely, who has been nominated for this year’s Global Marketer of the Year award by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), has been a driving force in the transformation agenda of Mars’ marketing function. Together with her team, this year, she launched Mars’ new marketing mandate, ‘Building brands for Mutual Value’ which was devised as a roadmap for sustainability with people, data, creativity, and purpose at its heart.

“Purpose and making a meaningful and measurable difference with our brands has guided our transformation journey,” Wakely explains. “‘Building brands for mutual value' is based on the idea that we want every single brand interaction to create sustainable transformational growth, that means creating mutual value for the people, the pets, and the partners that we serve.”

She points to Mars Petcare work, as a paradigm of this approach, where it has leveraged tech to move petcare beyond the functional, and into a category that creates a better world for animals. Globally in 2020, through Mars Petcare, it has provided over 6.5m pet meals, it worked with 223 NGO's across 35 countries supporting pets and pet owners, and benefited more than 600,000 pets with its donations.

“Half the world's dogs are homeless, and our purpose is to find more ‘forever homes’,” she explains. “Right in the crisis of the pandemic, shelters were having a difficult time. So our Pedigree team innovated a virtual solution together with Zoom, which we called ‘Dogs on Zoom’.”

“Our US team did a brilliant innovation, which we've now taken across several markets,” she claims. Over in New Zealand, Mars targeted millennials asking them to put their second child first. “It was incredibly innovative. Millennials are putting off having their first child, deciding to have pets instead.”

“So we created an adoption call to action. Behind it sat an innovative media solution that matched real time dogs available in shelters, where people are located, and what type of dog they're looking for. So the aim was to provide perfect matches between dogs and donors.”

Wakely highlights Mars relationship with its ad agencies as part of its transformation success. “We treat them as strategic partners. We involve them in the full business challenge that we're facing into not just the comms challenge or the media challenge, we bring them in, and we work with them on what we're trying to achieve.”

Wakely refers to ‘Yin and Yang’ to visualise this relationship. “You've got the science and the evidence based marketing. And that's the root of how we grow our brands and categories. We're very evidence based - we put a lot of effort into understanding our growth drivers,” she explains. “But the Yang of marketing is creativity. When the two come together, that's when magic happens. Magic on growth and value creation and magic on the meaningful and measurable differences.”

In line with its brand purpose, after it decided to pause ad spend in the summer amid the backlash, Mars has been working with Facebook to rebuild trust in advertising.

After Facebook, YouTube and Twitter reached a deal with big advertisers on harmful content, in September, Mars said the commitments made it confident to return to the platform.

“We work with Facebook in very close collaboration and with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM). Google and Facebook are great partners, but as part of working with any partner, we have to contract not only the what, but the how," she says. “And so, we have many direct reviews with them about the brand and social safety and what our expectations are.”

“The big brand safety challenge is that we need the platforms and the industry to work together on common definitions, like third-party vertification, to create one verifiable language around these topics – one that can drive meaningful and measurable results.”

The most important thing she says is working with GARM: "because the big brand safety challenge is we need the platforms and the industry to work together on common definitions, third-party vertification, to create one verifiable language around these topics, that can drive meaningful and measurable results."

On 6 January this year, the world watched in shock as far-right Trump supporters stormed the Capitol in Washington DC, in what is now being called ‘Insurrection Day’. Following the events, Wakely admits the brand is more conscious than ever about where it's media dollars are doing.

“No one could have experienced or watched the events in the US unfold over the last week without feeling heartache, anger, the continued fallability of the systems that are intended to protect us all equally,” she says.

“At Mars, there is absolutely no room in healthy society for discrimination. It's going to take a collective effort from individuals, communities and organisations all around the world to replace discrimination, and fear with humanity, empathy and caring, - that's out position on it. ”

She says that as one of the world's biggest advertisers: “we're incredibly committed to marketing responsibly. We've got three strategies: advertising responsibly, participating fully and being shapers of industry partnerships so that we can move as an industry and self-regulate wherever possible. And thirdly, we take immediate action when required.”

You can vote for Wakely, or any of the other finalists for the WFA Marketer of the Year Award, here.

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