Mention Mars Inc. to your average consumer, and they might know the company makes popular candies like M&Ms and Starburst. It’s less likely they’ll know that Mars is also a big player in the pet-care industry, not just with brands like Iams and Pedigree but through chains of animal hospitals and emergency veterinary providers. And fewer still are the consumers who can name Mars’ holdings in the wellness and nutrition arena, including CocoaVia, a dietary supplement derived from cocoa flavanols.
This relative corporate opacity is to be expected. Not only is Mars privately held—the $35 billion company is actually among the largest private concerns in the United States—but its best-known brands represent merely the most visible portion of its corporate iceberg. Historically reticent to speak to the media, Mars’ low profile extends to the fact that its McLean, Va., headquarters lacks a sign out front.
But Mars has been slowly emerging from its candy shell. The latest evidence of that is an updated brand identity, a suite of visual assets the company is revealing today including a new typeface and color palettes applied to new logos for Mars’ confectionary and pet-care divisions, plus a new brand icon.
Most notably, Mars has crafted a purpose statement—a surprisingly idealistic one for a company perhaps best known for making Skittles.
“This [effort] came from a very strong belief that to be successful in the long term, Mars needed to be as differentiated as its individual business units and brands were,” Andy Pharoah, the company’s vp of corporate affairs, strategic initiatives and sustainability, told Adweek. “So, essentially, I led an effort which was really about how to differentiate Mars [based] on purpose. There is an element of a brand refresh in this, but it’s not a marketing program. It’s a corporate approach to make it known that Mars stands for more.”
In other words, more than just candy and, apparently, more than just making money. Logo refreshes happen all the time, but Mars’ effort is notable for several reasons. First, the company is clearly delineating its three major areas of business—food, pet care and confectionary. The new typology will allow the Mars brand to differentiate itself uniformly across multiple categories.
Second, and perhaps more significantly, Mars is now stating its raison d’être—articulating a corporate mission and an idealistic one at that. Mars’ purpose statement reads: “The world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today.” This sentiment, albeit in shorter form, can be seen in the company’s new tagline: “Tomorrow starts today.”
As the company sees it, consumers, especially younger ones, are increasingly interested not only in the products a company sells but in what the company stands for. “They’re asking for companies to stand up for things,” Pharoah said, “to show the benefits that business can bring to the world.”
He’s right. According to data from Harris Insights and Analytics, Gen Zers are especially sensitive to corporate behavior, with 39 percent saying they’ll dump a brand if it fails to treat its employees fairly and 36 percent reporting they’ve abandoned a brand based on its response or lack of thereof to an important issue.
To show its awareness of key issues, Mars also produced a video that not only spotlights the diversity of its brands but speaks to its altruistic efforts in areas like climate change and sustainable sourcing of ingredients. (Scroll to the bottom of the story to watch it.)
Of course, time will tell if the average shopper notices that Mars cares about the world of tomorrow, but the company is looking to appeal to more than just consumers with its reinvigorated corporate branding.
In January, Mars CEO Grant Reid told Bloomberg he plans to double the size of the company in the next 10 years through a combination of developing and growing new brands and through acquisitions like VCA, a system of 800 animal hospitals Mars acquired late in 2017 for a reported $9.1 billion. That growth will also require Mars to start staffing up (to the tune of 100,000 employees in the next 20 years by one estimate).
Management hopes, then, that the statement of purpose not only makes the company more of a known quantity, but also frames it as an attractive place to work.
“If you’re going to double the size of the brand, you’ll need more people working for you and you’ll want the best of the best, and how a company shows up is incredibly important,” Pharoah said. “Talent is increasingly asking the question of what companies stand for and how they show up in the world. And they are as much millennials looking for hope and opportunity as anyone else.”
On a more granular level, the new visual assets help define the Mars brand in terms of both style and medium. While the new Mars logo has been rendered in blue block-capital letters just like its predecessor, the serifs have come off to make the badge easier to read on mobile screens.
Accentuating the cleaner, pared-down style of the typeface is a new color palette that reinforces the statement of purpose. While retaining the blue color of the “Mars” badge—it was lightened up a bit—the divisional names now appear in new colors: green for food, red for pet care and amber for confectionary.
“We chose green to really emphasize the importance of sustainability to our business associates and to the world,” Pharoah said. “And then the yellow is about hope and optimism.”
Mars’ decision to visually represent the diversity of its holdings comes at a time when the confectionary industry is in transition.
In 2016, the FDA changed the labeling requirements governing consumer packaged goods, requiring manufacturers to disclose the amount of sugar the add to their products. That change coincided with a rising tide of suspicion over the high sugar content in many foods, leading some to declare that “sugar is the new fat.” According to the 2018 Food and Health Survey, a whopping 77 percent of consumers are trying to either limit or avoid sugar intake.
What’s more, as Americans continue to gravitate toward healthy snacking (a category Nielsen has valued in excess of $1 billion), it’s probably a good time for a confectionary giant like Mars to emphasize it has a large stake in other segments, especially categories anyone can feel good about like pet health and human nutrition.
Indeed, Mars’ decision to emphasize the diversity of its holdings with its new logotypes comes roughly a year after competitor Nestle made a similar, if perhaps more drastic, move. In January 2018, Nestle sold off its entire confectionary business for $2.8 billion in order “to invest and innovate across a range of categories where we see strong future growth,” CEO Mark Schneider said at the time. Coincidentally or not, those areas included nutrition and pet care.