Mars’s CMO on driving growth and the evolution of evidence-based marketing

Mars’s chief marketing and customer officer Andrew Clarke tells Marketing Week his plans for the consumer goods giant and how purpose-based marketing will help achieve his goals.

Andrew Clarke is on a mission to make Mars a place where marketers can be brave in what he describes as a “difficult and disruptive” time for the industry.

He believes more businesses should trust their marketers to produce the right work while putting a bigger focus on diversity, something which has been evident in the work Maltesers and Snickers have delivered in recent months.

Clarke stepped into his role since last year, following the departure of Mars’ global CMO Bruce McColl who spent more than 24 years with the consumer goods company. Like McColl, Clarke is a Mars veteran, having worked his way up through multiple sales and marketing roles over the course of 15 years.

Talking to Marketing Week following his talk at the Marketing Society’s Brave Conference last month, he shares his lessons from his first year in charge, and discusses whether Mars plans to cut back on digital marketing like competitors P&G and Unilever, and why his views on mass targeting are different to his predecessor.

Both P&G and Unilever have recently cut back their digital investment – is Mars going to follow suit?

“We believe heavily in evidence-based marketing, so really proving the platforms and the creative and content we deliver. We pioneered a lot of that in traditional TV and video channels, so we know the ROI we get. The challenge is of course that the world is becoming more digital, and we need to figure out how we can tell our stories [on those platforms].

“In the past we’ve been brilliant at telling emotive stories that drive action, but now we’re looking at how we can do that in three to five seconds on a mobile device. It’s a very different skill set. And also having the data to prove that out.

“We spend around 30% to 35% of our media dollars on digital, and we will continue to test and learn. We expect this number to go up – as long as there’s proven results. We need to be much more agile doing this test and learn approach. The good thing about being a global business, is that once we’ve proven it we can scale it. We don’t want to just throw dollars at new shiny platforms without proving how it’s going to work. It’s a balancing act.

“I’m a huge believer, as my predecessor was, in evidence-based marketing. We built our previous laws of growth on data and evidence and we partnered with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute to prove those. We spend a lot of media dollars to drive that test and learn agenda within our business. My role is to do that as quickly as possible. It’s very easy in a tough environment to cut advertising and say it is not working. It’s in our own interest to prove it out and be evidence-based.”

READ MORE: Will other brands follow P&G’s lead and cut digital ad spend?

Bruce McColl said previously he doesn’t believe in targeting and instead wants to reach all 7 billion people on the planet – what are your views on this?

“Our beliefs have evolved since then and mine have as well. We do still believe in mass reach, particularly in our confectionary business. Memories are fragile, we want to make sure we reach as many consumers as possible and remind them of our brilliant brands and do it in a way that triggers them emotionally and causes a reaction.

“But you can go too far the other way, where you really want to drive targeting towards loyal pockets, but we want to drive penetration of our brands as much as possible.

“That said, of course there is a key role for data and programmatic, and understanding consumers much more. It’s becoming cheaper and quicker to do that. If I knew you were a pet owner, it would make sense to talk in an emotionally engaging way around what we can do to make the life of your dog much better. This is a rapidly evolving and very exciting landscape.”

It can be tricky taking over from a big character like McColl – how are you looking to make your mark?

“It’s a continuation to build on our evidence-based approach. We also really want to ramp up our testing and learning, free up our markets to do that and be much more innovative.

“The other step is my role. It’s an evolution from Bruce’s title, and gives us the opportunity to think about how we really grow and transform our categories. How does it really impact the category in which it operates and connects with consumers.

“I want to ramp up purpose-driven marketing, like we did with Snickers and Maltesers. I believe we have a very healthy portfolio of big global brands, supplemented with portfolio with smaller brand where we can do test and learn.”

You took on the role of CMO as well as chief customer officer (CCO) – what has that change meant internally?

“The reason for the change is really what’s going on in the world. You have changing consumer habits, the fragmenting media landscape and a changing path to purchase, all driven by the way we shop and consume media. That blurring meant that from a total Mars point of view, we wanted [to restructure] our growth strategy.

“In many ways, my role is chief growth officer. That doesn’t take away from the fact that within our segments, whether that’s pet care, confectionary or food, we very much believe in having a CMO and CCO and valuing those disciplines and expertise. But my role is more to pull those CCOs and CMOs together and embrace our growth strategy for the future.

“It’s about how we tackle digital together, how our brand campaigns grow the categories in which they operate, and how we innovate together and drive that though the rest of the business. My job is to represent that to the board, and ensure we’re investing in our resources and future capabilities to grow.”

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Comments
  • Chris Arnold 6 Dec 2017 at 6:39 pm

    Glad to see they are using evidence based marketing, avoids vanity measures. Interested to know how they define ‘purpose’, especially when it comes to confectionary, which doesn’t exactly rate high on the ‘good for you’ scale. Can we to assume that Mars will deliver work (more jobs), rest (more public seating) and play (playgrounds for kids)?

  • John Dawes 11 Dec 2017 at 1:08 am

    Sounds like a sensible approach (but surprised, to be honest, to hear 30% Mars marketing spend is digital …… for confectionery, sauces, pet food? Seems high).

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