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‘Changing logos, packaging makes brands harder to find’ – Nicole McMillan at Mumbrella 360 Asia

While decoding the success of the over 100 year old chocolate and confectionery brand at Mumbrella360 Asia in Singapore, Mars vice president of marketing for Asia, Middle East and Africa Nicole McMillan brought up the brand’s consistency on its logos and packaging. She said: “Many marketers want to change the logo and packaging when they get on a brand. But it just makes it harder for people to find us. 

“Even when people wanted to change, we’ve had to hold back. In the main, we have been very consistent with our look and feel. It may feel a bit boring, but it drives efficiency of marketing and effectiveness of sales.”

The approach had been drilled home by Mars chairman John Mars who had said: “How many minutes does it take for a consumer to find a Snicker’s bar or M&Ms?” McMillan used the quote to underscore his faith in the power of distribution.

She pointed to a case study from Canada during the Winter Olympics – confectionery brand Eclipse changed its packaging to reflect the event and sales plummeted. McMillan said: “In two weeks, we changed it back.”

The brand had partnered with the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Natural Science for a more science driven approach to marketing. McMillan said: “We find it freeing to know how to predict what will happen in a category when we pull the growth levers. 

“It allows us the space to be great in creative or storytelling. What we have done is to operationalise the data we have on brands and categories. The truth might be boring to some and difficult, but it is still the truth – brands grow more by penetration than by loyalty.”

The presentation also documented the history of Mars and Wrigley pre-and-post merger. It delved into a classic campaign Doublemint which, for a large part of its existence, insisted on using twins in its advertising. As a more contemporary example of creativity, McMillan spoke of the iconic campaigns for Snickers. 

Fielding a question on whether marketing can be a force for good in the post-presentation Q&A, McMillan said: “I think it can.” She pointed to the company’s drive in making its packaging more sustainable, and shifting to smaller packs, acknowledging health concerns. She said: “We don’t promote that you eat confectionery all day, every day.”

Addressing a question on balancing the brand’s international identity with localisation, she said: “It’s always a fine balance between global consistency and local relevance. We rely on consumer reactions and the sales that come from it, finding what they love about the campaign and what resonates locally. We started off a bit too tight globally but over time, we’ve become more confident about brands where you can have that freedom.”

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