Mars loses face of Uncle Ben in rebrand as Ben's Original

Global rebrand adds purpose: inclusivity and support for under-privileged Australians

Ben's rice packaging old, including the face of 'Uncle Ben' and new without Uncle Ben
Ben's rice packaging old, including the face of 'Uncle Ben' and new without Uncle Ben

Following public criticism in the US about racist advertising and a name-change announced last year, Mars Food is now airing its rebrand of Uncle Ben’s rice as Ben’s Original, in new packaging minus the smiling face of ‘Uncle Ben’, a person of colour. 

Beyond the name change, the company has also announced new brand purpose: Its corporate social responsibility to help disadvantaged communities to get a nutritious meal and other opportunities in life. 

Mars Food Australia marketing director, Bronwyn Powell, said the company had not felt the criticisms of racial insensitivity that flared internationally in the wake of George Floyd’s death in the US. 

“No, we haven’t felt that criticism here. But as a local brand, we are following the global marketing strategy,” Powell told CMO. “And since putting newly packaged product on shelves, we have had customers calling in saying they support the change.The thing I’m most proud of is the very careful consideration of people’s ideas on the meaning of racial stereotypes – we did a lot of social listening.” 

Mars Food Australia director of marketing, Bronwyn PowellCredit: Mars
Mars Food Australia director of marketing, Bronwyn Powell

Powell said the FMCG's market testing took in thousands upon thousands of opinions in every country where the Ben's brand is sold. These encompassed consumers, other stakeholders as well as employees, whom Mars calls associates. As a result, she did not believe the rebrand will see the product's market share to dip.

For Powell, the rebrand is as important in Australia as it is in countries where there was much more specific criticism of brands when the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum. 

“There are varying degrees of sensitivities in different countries but sensitivities are important globally and the new identity has been developed for the world, not just the US,” said Powell.  

“We will grow market share with this rebrand because, as a brand, we’re demonstrating we’ve listened, are purpose-led and committed to inclusivity. That's particularly important to younger consumers who want brands to create the world we want for tomorrow.” 

Read more: Making a rebrand a whole-of-organisation job

Ben's fresh purpose is to be inclusive and to support disadvantaged Australians with a portion of its profits over the next five years. The exact form this support will take will not be announced till next year but the company plans to partner with an outreach organisation to create better access to nutritious meals in one initiative. It's also looking to create more life opportunities for disadvantaged people.  

“'Everyone deserves a seat at the table’ is our rally cry for our brand’s purpose,” said Powell. “It means everyone has a right to a nutritious meal but also everyone deserves opportunities, a chance in life. We will be tailoring that campaign in Australia in terms of what social inclusion means. In other countries – for example, in the US – we’re training people as chefs in ‘Ben’s Original Seat at the Table’ scholarship. We’re exploring those sorts of community projects here too.” 

The new community initiatives will add to Mars Food Australia’s existing social contributions, which include hunger projects in partnership with Foodbank and Second Bite. 

The two-phase Ben's rebranding creative was developed by The&Partnership and will air in Australia and internationally as part of the first global marketing campaign. It also airs in the US, the UK, Germany, Canada and France. 

The first phase announces the new name and reassures us the product is the same, encapsulated in the name Ben’s Original. The campaign went live last week in online video, social media and in-store promotions.

Phase two, ‘Everyone’s original’, features non-actors and aims to celebrates individuality and inclusivity.

Don’t miss out on the wealth of insight and content provided by CMO A/NZ and sign up to our weekly CMO Digest newsletters and information services here.  

You can also follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, follow our regular updates via CMO Australia's Linkedin company page

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Latest Videos

More Videos

Undoubtedly, Robotic Process Automation enables marketing teams to accomplish repetitive tasks with fewer resources at a great accuracy.


What marketers need to know about robotic process automation

Read more

who wants to date me I am 9 years old and i am a boy

Jeremy Hawkins

Sink a sub gaming experience signals Subway's renewed brand push

Read more

Great read. I agree that it should be a perfect balance between interacting with your customers and knowing your brand. As a business, yo...

Caroline Scott

7 ways CMOs can improve their customer engagement game

Read more

Very true. Team development helps improve collaboration among the team members. I was able to improve my team's collaboration skills by t...

Quent Sinder

Why empowering others can help make you a great leader

Read more

CRM is a very good software that can help you succeed in your business. In my company, this system has allowed me to improve customer rel...

Anna Janicka

Sensis rebrands to Thryv and brings business software to Australian SMBs

Read more

Blog Posts

Attention marketers, it’s the small things that make a big difference

Marketers spend their careers searching for the formula that can improve the bottom line for their brands. Most new marketers also come into a role and feel like they need to put their own stamp on things.

Peter Pynta

CEO APAC, Neuro-Insight

Unboxing 101 - How savvy influencer engagement can build a brand

The humble unboxing video is a powerful tool. Correctly executed, it harnesses consumer fandom, viral authenticity and brand design magic to deliver a high-impact message to a tightly targeted cohort of consumers.

Gali Arnon

Chief marketing officer, Fiverr

​Power to the people

Purpose is the ultimate statement of intent for many organisations. Why are we here? What are we trying to achieve?

Rich Curtis

CEO, FutureBrand A/NZ

Sign in