How Mars tapped social sentiment to win over millennial consumers

Mars Chocolate shares the results of an innovative four-week social media campaign that used sentiment analysis to engage with younger consumers

When Mars Chocolate announced it would set the price of a Snickers bars based on the mood of the Internet, it did more than just create a cool integrated online and offline campaign – it set in motion a fundamental rethink of how Mars reaches specific audiences.

“We’re obviously a mass media, reach-based, brand-led organisation, and most of our investment lies around mainstream TVCs to drive that reach objective,” marketing director for Mars Chocolate Australia, Matthew Graham, tells CMO. “As the world transitions, and we are trying to reach more of the younger demographic and millennials, we are realising very quickly that they aren’t watching much TV these days.

“The way to reach them is absolutely though mobile. Then we asked how can we use our campaigns through mobile to reach that audience. So ‘Hungerithm’ was born.”

The ‘Hungerithm’ campaign ran for four weeks in mid-2016, and worked off the back of Snickers’ ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ tagline by monitoring Twitter posts to determine overall sentiment. When ‘anger’ went up, the price of a Snickers bar at 7Eleven stores would go down, with consumers able to lock in a price by generating a barcode on their phone. The lowest price reached was $0.78, due in part to anger directed towards US presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

Graham says more than 78,000 sessions were recorded, with more than half on mobile, and 7000 barcodes generated.

Matthew Graham
Matthew Graham


“When you translate that to purchases, the number of Snickers we sold in that given four-week period for 7Eleven is significant given what we would normally do,” Graham says. “From that point of view it over-delivered on our expectations, and certainly met 7Eleven’s objective.”

The campaign also generated nearly $1.4 million dollars in earned media, with 150 articles written.

“There was a level of paid media we had to do to drive it, but the paid media paid off,” Graham says. “It has given us a lot of confidence in trying to create content.”

While the campaign proved successful, it was a long time in the making, having been conceived a full two years before execution. Graham says half that time was spent working with Mars’ agency partners, Clemenger and Mediacom, and the rest aligning with 7Eleven’s plans.

Many of the most challenging questions were internal. “Where would I fund the budget from, and how would I get my CFO and CEO to believe in the leap of faith?” Graham recalls. “All you can do is to be really clear on the success factors upfront, and how we want to be known from a reputation point-of-view.”

That includes thinking more broadly about the benefits of a campaign. “This goes beyond just selling a lot more Snickers,” Graham says.

“It helps us recruit more talent and put us on the edge of marketing leadership amongst other FMCG companies in Australia. So it has a lot of by-products that you can’t measure, that we want to be known for and famous for. When you sell the whole package and the emotion behind it, it starts stacking up.”

The Hungerithm platform is now being retooled for use on similar campaigns in other parts of the world, Graham and his team is considering new campaigns. Most importantly, Hungerithm has given Mars the confidence to try similar ideas into the future.

“It’s given us a lot of confidence, and our investment in social and digital will increase significantly next year and beyond,” Graham says. “Gone are the days where you roll out a promotion, stay in the market for four weeks and roll back in. We need to be a lot more fluid with how we want to interact with our consumers daily.

“There will be a lot of failures, so it is about how do we fail fast, but equally, celebrate what worked.”

That includes seeing Twitter play a bigger role in the company’s media platform mix.

“Typically we are talking ‘at’ consumers through TV,” Graham says. “But now it is much more two-way and interactive – that is the opportunity. And Twitter and a lot of the social platforms will be pivotal to us moving forward.

“It was a great experience, and our understanding of what data is available through that platform is a lot better now than what it was.”

Having been through the experience, Graham advises all marketers to set aside funds for innovative ideas.

“For CMOs, I would be encouraging them to ringfence funds, because it will create value,” he says. “You will fail, and you’ve got to get comfortable with, especially in big multinationals. However, if you can fail fast you can learn and turn that into great value creation moving forward.”

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