Tempting consumers with affordable indulgence

An interview with Steve Ginsberg, director of strategic brand design, Mars Chocolate North America

What are some Mars packages introduced over the last 18 months or so that you are especially proud of?

We are doing a good job using our M&M’S Characters in a bold manner on packaging to lead communication for holidays, promotions (such as the recent Character Vote) and new M&M’S Pretzel Chocolate Candies. I like the look of Milky Way Simply Caramel. It retains the essence of the brand while clearly communicating the “all caramel” point of difference. It has great shelf impact. The Snickers Bar twist wrap developed by our packaging engineers is a great enhancement for portion control and storage. It’s a great example of value-added packaging.

In terms of packaging, what are Mars’ broad priorities? Are there any packaging principles that extend across your highly disparate product portfolio (candy, rice, pet food)?

It has to start with the understanding that the package truly is the product, or more accurately, the brand. It’s the most personal component of the marketing mix; the one that the consumer touches, brings home and interacts with. Shelf impact, communicating the brand’s promise, creating equities that are easily remembered, usage occasions and storage are all priorities. All other elements should be considered tools that establish these goals.  These include graphics, structure, functionality, sustainability, substrates, etc.

Mars does a lot of short-term candy SKUs for things like seasonal/holiday packaging, cross-branding, and athletic or other promotions. What demands does this place on packaging, and how do you meet those challenges?

Packaging must speak to the shopper’s desires, whether it’s seasonal, sponsorship or any other type of promotion. It must clearly communicate what motivates the target consumer for that occasion or event. This is accomplished via graphic treatments such as color, logos and icons. It must also align with need states or suggest usage occasions such as decorating, gifting or on-the-go. Size, shape and functionality are common elements to consider.

Candy, ideally, is viewed as an “affordable indulgence” in tough economic times. How can packaging reinforce that theme?

Packaging can help to remind consumers of the experiences they enjoy about a brand. Visual expressions of the brand essence, product imagery, and rituals related to the package’s feel, usage and storage can all contribute. Promotional “retro” packs utilizing older logos and graphics help to connect people to a simpler time are a perfect example. The truth is our brandsarea very affordable and high-quality indulgence. The packaging has to simply remind shoppers of that.  F&BP