Maltesers on why marketing must be embedded from the start for innovation to succeed

With the launch of two new products marking its first foray into the premium sector, Maltesers’ brand director explains why marketing must be involved with innovation from the outset.

Maltesers always thinks about marketing “right from the start” of any innovation project to avoid unnecessary product extensions and “innovation for innovation’s sake”, according to brand director Rebecca Shepheard-Walwyn.

She tells Marketing Week: “Maltesers has been so loved for so long that you don’t want to play with it in the wrong way. [As a result] we’re always looking at consumer insights and trends as there’s no point innovating for the sake of it and you need marketing to help you figure that out.”

She adds that innovation has to be customer-led to ensure there is a genuine desire for new products, which is all the more important for a well-established brand like Maltesers and others in the Mars portfolio. “With a heritage brand you need to make sure you’re moving it into the right space. Mars has always approached innovation as something consumers have got to accept from the brand.

READ MORE: Product innovation or marketing strategy – What comes first?

Maltesers, which launched of two new products on Thursday (24 May), is looking to make its first foray into the premium sector with Maltesers Truffles.

Shepheard-Walwyn says: “We know premium is massively growing and we’ve been talking about it for a long time as we know our consumers are going into that space but we could never work out how we could do it.”

We are making this bold move from a product point of view so it felt like we should have a bold move with advertising as well.

Rebecca Shepheard-Walwyn, Maltesers

A rise in gifting presented a gap in the market, however. “Consumers want a younger, more informal way to gift, which came through really strongly in our research, and we know Maltesers is seen as a young brand, so we wanted to come up with a product that met that brief,” Shepheard-Walwyn explains.

“I don’t think anyone is doing informal gifting so I would say it’s a trailblazing product in that sense.”

Maltesers has also launched Maltesers Buttons, both of which are part of a two-year long project that sees the brand trying to connect with a generation that is spoilt for choice when it comes to sweet treats.

“The bite-size category has a 25% innovation rate and when you think Maltesers hasn’t really innovated in that space you realise why young people might not be looking to us in the way we’d like,” she says.

The new products are a result of an extensive piece of research that saw the brand discover gaps in both the market and appeal.

Maltesers Buttons are flatter with a higher chocolate ratio as the brand says this taste appeals to young consumers, while Maltesers Truffles combine a truffle with the Maltesers crunch. Both will be available in various sizes from mid-July, with prices starting from £0.66 for the buttons and £1.99 for the truffles.

Focus on digital marketing

Maltesers will not be advertising the new products on TV, instead choosing to focus on digital in order to appeal to its target audience of 16- to 44-year-olds.

Mars is investing £1.2m in the launch and expects the digital campaign to reach more than 60% of the UK. This will be combined with in-store activity including premium point-of-sale and media tools that it hopes will “drive trial, awareness and conversion”.

Shepheard-Walwyn explains: “We are making this bold move from a product point of view so it felt like we should have a bold move with advertising as well.”

The brand also chose a digital route for the new products to ensure its diversity campaign on TV is not diluted by a different message. “Because we’ve taken this bold diversity step we didn’t want to take it off air. This way we can really land the message about the new products but maintain our commitment to that cause above the line.”

However, while diversity is not at the forefront of the campaigns for its new products, it is still very much a focus. “Diversity has become integral to the brand; from casting to directors, diversity is always part of the conversation,” Shepheard-Walwyn adds.