Q&A with Mars Bitesize marketing director Alex Brittain


Following the opening of the M&M’s destination store in London’s Leicester Square, , marketing director for all of Mars Bitesize brands, talks about the brand’s plans to emulate its US strategy with a character-based push in the UK.

Marketing Week (MW) What role does the M&M’s London store play in the brand’s UK strategy?

Alex Brittain (AB): It’s a fantastic piece of retailtainment, and a historic moment for the brand in the UK.

One of the key things is the amount of interaction it generates between consumers and the brand. We’re seeing people spend between 30 and 45 minutes in the store interacting with the brand, so it really is about more than just selling chocolate, it really is about brand experience.

MW: How are you seeing that dwell time and interaction translate into the bottom line?

AB: It’s very early days for the London store, but we’re hoping that the store will play though into core growth for the brand by providing consumers the opportunity to engage with and interact with the characters so that they understand what’s at the heart of the brand.

M&M’s is the largest confectionary brand in the world worth $2.75bn and that’s built on a proven success formula, which revolves around the characters and uses them to communicate to consumers what the brand stands for and the essence of the brand,

That’s how we see the connection between the £10m investment in the store and the business growth.

MW: The character-based strategy is very clear in the US, what are the challenges in bringing it to the UK?

AB: We launched M&M’s in the UK in the mid-80s, and we now have a whole generation of people that have grown up with the brand and we’ve seen a natural momentum build. Now we’ve done the patient bit and feel it’s the time to invest behind the characters. It’s a big job for us to achieve so were trying to do that through a few key channels.

The store is a significant step forward on the journey, but we’re also investing £6m in TV advertising.

MW: Characterisation seems to fit naturally with interactive channels like social media and mobile, how will M&M’s use those channels within its UK strategy?

AB: The characters provide a fantastic platform to generate genuinely interesting content. We’ve seen it already with the from the red carpet initiative that we launched into cinemas this year. It’s a 60-second entertainment show reviewing upcoming films hosted by Red and Yellow, we can then take that into digital and online and drive interaction through those media channels.

We can also learn how to leverage that in the UK from the brand around the globe

MW: How does the M&M’s UK push fit into Mars’ wider UK strategy?

AB: At a time when we’re seeing a lot of manufacturers and advertisers pull back, we’re looking to drive growth in our advertising investment. We’ve made a 40% increase in the amount of media were investing in the last 2 years – up to £56m for the Mars brand portfolio.

The core tenant to the strategy is around investing in core brands such as Mars, Snickers, Galaxy and Malteasers and starting to activate some of the latent potential in brands like M&M’s.

MW: What does the increased investment in marketing and ad spend reflect about the way Mars views its importance.

AB: It’s not so much a change in the how important we see our brands, because that’s what our business has always been about.

What it reflects is a desire to step change the levels of growth. We’re looking to grow faster and we see our communications and our consumer engagement through communications and advertising as the key to achieving that.

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