Aishwarya Ramesh
Marketing

"Ours is an impulse category, how many feel the same impulse when shopping online?": Varun Kandhari, Mars Wrigley, India; on Snickers

The director of marketing speaks about how the pandemic, lockdown and online shopping has impacted the impulse snacking category.

Snickers is back with a new ad campaign that carries forward the tagline of ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’. In ad by BBDO India, starring actor Vinay Pathak, we see a father cleaning his newly purchased monster truck – much to the surprise of his daughter, played by Vedika Nawani. She shakes her head in disbelief and reaches out for a Snickers bar from her bag.

The film ends with the father realising his mistake when he bites into a Snickers bar, while a voice-over narrates – ‘Jab insaan bhookh se totally pagla jae, usse Snickers pakadaye’. The film wraps up with the father inquiring about the truck’s return policy, while eating a Snickers.

Over a video call, we caught up Varun Kandhari, director of marketing at Mars Wrigley India. He explains that his brief to the agency was to continue with the insight of not being oneself, when hungry.

The thought of ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ comes from a larger global campaign. The company had to localise the execution and concept to suit Indian audiences. In the past, it has also created ads with celebrities such as Sonam Kapoor, Rekha and MS Dhoni.

Other brands in Mars Wrigley India’s portfolio include M&Ms, Mars, Bounty, Twix, Galaxy, etc. It also includes fruit candies like Boomer, Double Mint, Wrigley’s Orbit and more.

Snickers was launched in India around 2014. Kandhari reveals that the main marketing challenges the company has faced throughout are related to distribution and staying relevant in a competitive market.

“We wanted to create a vegetarian recipe which delivers the right product quality and also withstands temperature conditions in India. It is a market where people like eating nuts as well. We had to innovate to make our recipe more ‘heat robust’ as we didn’t want to lose the quality of the chocolate we used. We also didn’t want to compromise on taste.”

"We wanted to create a vegetarian recipe which delivers the right product quality and also withstands temperature conditions in India."
Varun Kandhari

Globally, it was the first time that Mars Wrigley had come out with such a heat robust formula. “We also had to come out with innovations in flavour and ingredients, to stay relevant. We launched some limited edition flavours like Snickers Fruit and Nut, Snickers Almond, Snickers Cashew, and so on to cater to Indian tastes. Globally, it was the first time that Mars Wrigley had introduced such flavours,” says Kandhari.

"We launched some limited edition flavours like Snickers Fruit and Nut, Snickers Almond, Snickers Cashew, and so on to cater to Indian tastes. Globally, it was the first time that Mars Wrigley had introduced such flavours."

In a bid to drive relevance, a 2017 campaign saw the company replace the brand name on its bars with mood descriptors of people’s personalities when they were hungry. “We mass-produced 19 different traits that were specific to local regions. So, they were in Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi, etc. We wanted to make it relevant to India with this campaign.”

Also Read: Snickers extends campaign to wrappers; boldly tweaks name on pack

India, as a country, is unique and diverse, which, according to Kandhari, brings a unique set of challenges to the table. He informs us that one of the primary challenges the company faces is that in the country, the consumption of chocolate per capita is quite less, as compared to other developing markets.

"Our biggest challenge is to drive penetration of chocolate, as a category. We’re doing that by attempting to provide the product at more accessible price points to the consumer - starting with Rs 10 packs."

“There is huge room for growth. Currently, the penetration of the chocolate category in India is in low double digits. Our biggest challenge is to drive penetration of chocolate, as a category. We’re doing that by attempting to provide the product at more accessible price points to the consumer - starting with Rs 10 packs, which is a first for the Mars Inc. company. It enables us to distribute the products more widely.”

Varun Kandhari
Varun Kandhari

Kandhari adds that another challenge is related to distribution – making the product more available, while also increasing brand awareness.

“In India, the bulk of chocolate consumption happens out of home, whereas if you look at the western markets, most of the consumption happens ‘in-home’. The latter is a trend which is growing in India now. If you look at the last one-and-a-half years or so, because of the COVID pandemic, this trend has accelerated. In India, the bulk of consumption happens out of home with single packs, whereas in western markets, it happens in-home with larger packs.”

The trend of buying large packs is slowly picking up in India too and during the pandemic, the company saw an acceleration of this trend. “We came up with a portfolio (with products at different price points) during the pandemic to service this demand among consumers,” Kandhari mentions.

In India, a common trend is for people to buy products such as wheat, rice, etc., loosely. Kandhari mentions that with the pandemic, he observed that across geographies and pop strata, there was an increased acceptance of packaged products. “This helps the sweets and snacks category, especially in the context of chocolate.”

The pandemic also led the company to open its direct-to-consumer website, called marswrigleytreats.com. Kandhari talks to us from a shopper’s perspective. “We saw that the shoppers were unable to go to the ‘kirana’ stores, or modern trade outlets. So, like many other players, we also saw a growth in online commerce.”

"Online, the shopper behaviour remains the same, we just need to find how to make our presence felt on the purchase journey."

“Ours is an impulse category. When you see the product at a checkout counter, you pick it up. The question is, how many feel that same impulse when shopping on a digital commerce platform. When a person is concluding his or her search, we need to be able to show a reminder of our brand on the shopping platform. The shopper behaviour remains the same, we just need to find how to make our presence felt on the purchase journey.”

He informs us that there was also a resurgence of rural demand. This was because last year, people went back to their hometowns.

According to Kandhari, in India, chocolate consumption happens during little moments. People tend to consume chocolates for different moments.

“How do you design a portfolio which makes products available across these different moments? Sometimes, people want chocolate to lift their energy levels post-lunch. We call this a recharge moment. Sometimes, consumers use chocolates as a reward. It is for their ‘me-time’. There are moments of connect when, you’re watching a movie together. Our challenge is to make sure we drive consumption via these moments,” he concludes.

Campaign details/Agency credits: BBDO India

· Agency: Josy Paul, Nikhil Mahajan, Jazryk Gill, Tanushree Paul

· Production house: Flare India

· Producer: Namann Pal

· Director: Kunal Pardeshi