Mars on why its top marketers are becoming ‘chief demand officers’

The FMCG giant is pulling together its marketing and sales teams as it looks to improve marketing effectiveness and ensure it is driving both brand and category growth.


Mars is aiming to improve the commercial effectiveness of marketing by bringing its marketing and sales teams closer together to create what is, in effect, a “chief demand officer”.

Speaking to Marketing Week, Mars Food’s global chief marketing and customer officer Clarence Mak, says as Mars moves to a move evidence-based approach to marketing, it is becoming more important that marketing is not a “standalone” consideration but factored into everything the company does. That, he says, means his role is no longer “just marketing but also sales”.

“That is why my role is essentially a chief demand officer, or at Coke there is a chief growth officer. It is not just about marketing but also sales; how do we make sure these two are linked so when we drive our brands we are also driving category growth. Retailers want to grow the category using the powerful brands we have,” he explains.

“There is a slow change, that is accelerating – the need to make sure marketing is not a standalone consideration.”

READ MORE: Coca-Cola and the rise of the chief growth officer

To ensure that commercial effectiveness, Mars has a separate customer market insight team that works with its research agencies and data teams to develop tools that measure how its marketing is driving real sales uplift. The brand teams can then use those tools to decide where to spend their budgets based on investment priorities and brand focus.

The work is helping Mars better understand how and why shoppers make purchase decisions, which in turn ensures they get the support they need from retailers. He admits this way of thinking has necessitated a mindset shift at Mars, but that it is working because it comes from people in leadership roles.

It is not just about marketing but also sales; how do we make sure these two are linked so when we drive our brands we are also driving category growth.

Clarence Mak, Mars

“There is no point doing marketing if consumers are not buying in the store so we need to make sure people [in the business] understand that is the angle,” adds Mak. “It is not always easy because every functional team has its own functional agenda, but internally we are setting the tone from the top. We have the leadership showing that ultimately our success is retailers growing the category and shoppers are buying our brands.”

That is why Mak has the “customer” aspect in his job title (as did Mars’s chief marketing and customer officer Andrew Clarke before he was promoted), so they can drive the “demand” mindset across the business.

“We don’t want to just talk about brand, we want to talk about how our retailers should be powered. Our retailers care a lot about what we do with our brands and how they connect with consumers to drive categories,” he says.

Part of the way Mars drives that growth is by bringing purpose to its marketing. While some might questions why a company that sells chocolate bars and pet food needs brands with purpose, Mak sees it as a natural evolution of considering what brands mean.

He uses the example of Uncle Ben’s, which in the US is looking to encourage more children to learn to cook. He says that by digging into the insight that fewer children are learning to cook at school, it gives the brand the chance to “make a bigger impact and bring meaning to consumers”.

“All of us want to impact the world and for building brands, building meaning is important. Some brands naturally have a place to land in purpose then there are some brands that you wouldn’t think have a purpose, like Skittles. But the brand has a rainbow banner and so for Pride we turned it white. You can say that’s opportunistic but that is also where we feel we can make an impact,” he explains.

However, he admits Mars has not yet found a way to measure the impact of purpose, although he doesn’t believe that should stop the company trying to have an impact. However, he does point to earned media and the additional reach that offers as a key benefit.

“We don’t think there is a perfect measurement yet but that shouldn’t stop us from doing it. If it feels right we should do it, learn how to measure it, and we are connecting with some of our peer companies and they have been very generous sharing their approach because everyone believes it is the right thing to do,” says Mak.

“In terms of performance, Pedigree, Uncle Ben’s, Skittles, those brands are doing really well. How much of this is due to purpose? I don’t know, but at least it’s not hurting.”