Mars Chocolate North America pushed its point-of-sale merchandising to new heights this year, with both nationwide promotions and theme-promos customized to particular grocery chains.
The year got off to a big start with the introduction of the new M&M’S character, Ms. Brown, during the Super Bowl.
“We worked closely with our sales and retail teams to ensure that once Ms. Brown was revealed during the Super Bowl, stores across the country were ‘Painted Brown,’” Timothy LeBel, vice president, sales-grocery/value/military for Mars Chocolate North America, told SN.
“Our grocery retail coverage teams secured placement of high-impact, point-of-purchase materials — ranging from plastic Ms. Brown standees to danglers.” The POS materials pointed out that M&M’S brand candies and Ms. Brown are “not your average chocolate.”
Some of the Ms. Brown POS sites included a “Find an All Brown Bag” contest. Customers who found a bag of all-brown M&Ms got a chance to win a grand prize of $100,000 cash, and more than $220,000 in instant-win prizes featuring M&M’S characters.
Giving customers a chance to enter to win a variety of prizes, from Texas-style boots to a year’s worth of movie tickets, were incorporated in many of the company’s POS merchandising and cross-merchandising efforts.
For example, in a collaborative effort with San Antonio-based H-E-B , Mars created an offer that gave shoppers chances to win Texas-style prizes like boots and hats, and football tickets. The all-encompassing promotion at H-E-B included displays that provided recipe ideas, recipe booklets, custom headers and an M&M’S brand FSI for the chain. Ms. Brown character standee bins and Ms. Brown character walk-abouts were featured at selected stores.
In another give-away tied to POS merchandising, Mars, in its national Summer Movie Mania promotion, gave customers a chance to win movie tickets for one year.
In a similar promotion, customers purchasing three bags of Mars brand products could mail in for $9 in movie cash.
The Movie Mania was launched based on the success of last year’s movie theme promotion. Also, dovetailing with this summer’s movie promotion, a new cross-merchandising effort pairing M&M’S candies and national-brand and private-label popcorn was put in place at some grocery chains. M&M’S displays with POS materials were placed in snack aisles. Research has shown that consumers eat both these snacks at home, often while watching movies.
“A popular trend is combining sweet and savory flavors, and consumers enjoy both these snacks, sometimes mixed together, for occasions like Family Night and Movie Time,” LeBel said, as he described various cross-merchandising efforts over the last year.
LeBel explained how important consumer research is and how cross-merchandising programs need to lead with consumer insights.
“You can’t force-fit something that isn’t supported by solid insights, and you need to keep it simple.”
And Mars does keep it simple with its merchandising and cross-merchandising. Very clear and concise messages combined with eye-catching, tall POS standees, bins and danglers get the message to the shopper fast.
“You only have moments to capture a shopper’s attention, so you have to connect with strong relevant imagery,” LeBel said.
Research has shown that consumers like mixing M&M’S candies with baking mixes, like brownie mixes, and Mars put that research to use in a co-merchandising effort at Meijer stores.
“There, we co-merchandised M&M’S candies and Meijer ’s Moist Select Brand Brownie Mix with an offer to get the brownie mix free with the purchase of several bags of M&M’S candies,” LeBel pointed out.
One customized merchandising plan, with lots of POS materials, involved bundling Dove chocolate bars with private-label and national-brand graham crackers and marshmallows, at Ahold  stores. That was tied to the popularity of s’mores.
Customers saved money by buying all three products, and at the same time, gave Mars a chance to show off its newly designed Dove chocolate singles bars, which are now 11% larger and wider.
Mars partners tightly with retailers, which helps maximize success with its large array of POS attention-getters.
“When building programs, we take a holistic approach that is mutual, collaborative and focused on the intersection between retailer, brand and shopper,” LeBel said.
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