Varun Kandhari on driving conversations around different products under the Mars Wrigley umbrella

Pranali Tawte
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Mars Wrigley

Varun Kandhari shares how the brand uses digital marketing to push its varied products while maintaining the Mars Wrigley tone and positioning.

In conversation with Varun Kandhari, Director Marketing, Mars Wrigley India, Social Samosa understands the festive plans and social media marketing tactics at play for the product portfolio. Kandhari gives an insight into a few campaigns that the brand executed, highlighting how different approaches have worked.

Edited Excerpts:

The chocolate & confectionery industry has been very competitive off late. In addition to bigger brands, D2C & home-based entrepreneurs too are getting into the space. What kind of a role does the brand’s marketing strategy play in creating a differentiation & brand recall/perception? 

Consumers are increasingly preferring brands that have a voice beyond their product category. Simply selling the product does not attract customers anymore. While the shelves in stores may be booming with options, consumers want brands that they can connect with and brands that they trust, which is where the marketing strategy becomes pivotal. It is imperative for brands to strive towards a higher purpose, keeping consumer ease and requirements, which needs to reflect in the brand’s digital and social media strategy. Trust and relevance are antidotes to consumer indifference, and marketing strategies need to be built on that. 

What kind of a role does digital and social media marketing play for Mars Wrigley?

We have always believed in providing beautiful moments of joy through our portfolio which reflects in all our product launches and campaigns, and therefore our digital and social media marketing strategy as well. Social media brings forth a great opportunity to interact directly with consumers and opens avenues to engage with consumers in extremely innovative ways. Today, a marketer has numerous platforms, and several tools within each platform, that can be used to engage with consumers.

This year, from product launches to topical occasions like World Chocolate Day, we have ensured we leveraged owned and earned platforms, and collaborated with content creators and influencers through strategic partnerships across our key markets. When we launched SNICKERS®  Kesar Pista, for example, we leveraged Holi, one of India’s biggest festivals, and sent exciting hampers with the chocolates to influencers and content creators across 7 cities. Similarly, for BOOMER®, we curated kits that captured the nostalgia associated with the iconic brand, including items such as blow pens, wresting cards, video game, tipi tipi tap game, spinning top (lattu), different BOOMER® variants, and stickers. As a result, we were able to drive brand visibility and relevance, and engage with our consumers through interesting and relevant mediums.

Also Read: Case Study: How Biryani by Kilo created buzz around their drone delivery campaign

Please take us through the creative process of ‘You are not you when you are hungry’ for the Snickers campaign. What was the creative brief?  How has this content IP worked for the brand?  

‘You Are Not You When You Are Hungry’, is a global brand platform, this has helped establish Snickers as a bar of substance that sorts you out. Over the years, SNICKERS® has successfully built its resonance with consumers as a solution to hunger pangs, and ‘You are not you when you are hungry’ as a brand proposition has gained popularity globally. In India, we wanted to give it a new and humorous to ensure its relevance and reliability for our audience. Since its introduction in India, SNICKERS® has engaged with loyal Indian consumers through several campaigns that are topical, humorous, and desi.

We have seen Dhoni lose his cool, Rekha as a Bollywood diva, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja as a drama queen, and Vinay Pathak making the outlandish decision of buying a monster truck. SNICKERS® has also utilized the wrapper for innovative campaigns with the limited-edition Hunger Bars, which had hunger traits such as Tubelight, Drama Queen, Princess, Junglee, and Laatsaab on the wrapper in regional languages. We want to continue building such India-relevant campaigns for SNICKERS® which stay true to our brand proposition and are palatable to our audience. 

How would you define your overall digital marketing strategy and how have your ad spends increased for this year? What are your plans for the festive season?  

We have always maintained a 360-degree marketing approach with a balanced mix of digital media as well as television. Our brands have an active voice on social media, and we have been leveraging topical occasions as well as moment marketing for product launches and campaigns on occasions such as Word Chocolate Day, Holi, Valentine’s Day, Raksha Bandhan, and more. Our ad spends are planned in line with the relevant reach we want to drive through our media effort. All this is done by being cognizant of the category and key competition benchmarks.  

Chocolates and sweets are one of the most favored gifts during Indian festivities. During the upcoming festive season, we foresee an uptick in sales for our most loved brands. Consumer preferences are rapidly evolving and increasingly we are seeing people opt for smaller portions of their favorite chocolates or confectionary, which has led to a higher demand for shared packs. More and more consumers are also looking for customized options, so we have also added these offerings to our portfolio.

Consumers now are also keen to experiment and try fusion products that are a combination of traditional and modern flavors, and our latest innovation SNICKERS® Kesar Pista is a great choice for the celebrations. We have an occasion and price-point-friendly gifting portfolio which keeps evolving considering the changing consumer behavior and category trends. Our marquee brands SNICKERS® and GALAXY® are active through the festive season engaging consumers with occasion-specific content with a strong call to action.

What sort of tone do you maintain on each of the social media channels and how do you go about maintaining a complete hygiene check in terms of content? 

Each brand under our vast portfolio has a unique brand proposition and identity that consumers love and resonate with, and each of these propositions provides interesting storytelling opportunities. For example, SNICKERS® is a globally loved brand that has successfully built an association with hunger pangs, and the consumers love its tongue-in-cheek sense of humor. This reflects not just in ad campaigns, but also in the social media content on our official handle through influencer collaborations, consumer contests, and more.  Similarly, BOOMER® campaigns and social media content capture the wacky and humorous essence of BOOMER® with the tagline, BOOM MACHA DE. From mischief for M&Ms® to ‘Choosing Pleasure’ for GALAXY®, we have built brand propositions and identities that are engaging, relevant, and relatable. We understand the tone of each brand and follow that consistently when it comes to content on social media.  

Consumer behavior has undergone a significant change in the last two years. What are some of the consumer consumption trends that have emerged in the last two years? 

At the start of the pandemic, since people were staying at home with their families, we saw an increase in the consumption of shared packs and at-home consumption. Due to COVID-19, many people also preferred to buy products packaged goods from the comfort of their homes, therefore eCommerce and digital sales were also on the rise. Currently, as we have gradually moved towards normalcy, we’re observing that people are looking for opportunities to celebrate with their loved ones, and what’s a celebration without something sweet! So, we see a rise in sales of gifting and shared packs and we are foreseeing a boost in sales during the upcoming festive season. 

Interview Director-Marketing Mars Wrigley Varun Kandhari