Snickers, Who They Are When They’re Hungry

The World’s Best Selling Chocolate Bar,

https://www.thedrum.com/news/2015/07/01/mars-global-cmo-expecting-brand-love-step-too-far-consumers

Snickers is the one of the top selling candies around the world. According to a 2015 report, Snickers sold approximately 405.3 million units and generated a revenue of $386.2 million.[1] Snickers is one of the many candy brands under the Mars Wrigley Confectionery (Mars) umbrella. As one of Mars’ most successful candies, Snickers serves as an indicator about the extent in which Mars is a responsible chocolate manufacturer.

In the analysis it will show how Mars does not commit to the five principles it has set out for itself. From its level of sustainability to the advertisement campaigns it has distributed over the years, Mars has not demonstrated the industry leading ideals it claims to uphold in its company, a company that sells its products to more than 180 countries. Mars neglects its responsibility as a world leading producer of chocolate, and looking through the lens of the “world’s best-selling candy bar” will reveal areas of much improvement. As a company that looks to constantly grow, and appears to have an unceasing appetite, much like the subjects of one of its advertisements (seen below), it appears that it will cut corners and feed into false and dangerous stereotypes in order to satisfy that hunger. As their famous ad campaign popularly coined, “Snickers, you’re not you when you’re hungry.”

[1] CNBC, The Daily Meal. “America’s Favorite Chocolate Candies.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/americas-favorite-chocolate-candies.

“Satisfying your hunger”,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_NC0f1nvEz8

Snickers’ Mission

According to Mars before any decision is made they consider 5 key principles: Quality of work and contributions to society, Responsibility (as individuals and a company) to act now, Mutuality of benefit to their stakeholders, Efficiency to use their resources to maximum effect, Freedom to make their own decisions.[1] As a company that has been around for more than 100 years, it seems obvious that it would be able to hold itself to such high ideals and still experience high levels of success. However, as will be revealed, their desire to benefit stakeholders seems to be their strongest decider.

An important point of emphasis for Mars in order to seek higher revenues for their iconic candy bars is through their advertisements. No matter how great a candy bar is, people still need to want to buy it. James Miller, global head of strategy for Mars at BBDO, an advertising company, revealed what made their six-year ad campaign so effective. Miller attributed the success of the campaign to the fame it was able to attribute through expert commercials and recognizable celebrities, such as Betty White, Aretha Franklin, and Rowan Atkinson who portrays his famous character Mr. Bean.

[1] https://www.mars.com/about/five-principles


Mr. Bean TV Advertisement,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIVDxL2lgN4

Miller speaks extensively about where Snickers was lacking in its public persona, and how the people of BBDO looked to help Mars boost Snickers market share and retain its throne on top of the chocolate bar industry.

Miller, unsurprisingly, leaves out numerous examples of the ways in which Snickers and other chocolate manufacturers have attempted to sell their chocolate in racially and heterosexually charged ways.

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Snickers’ Fumble on Superbowl Sunday

In 2007 Snickers released a commercial during Super Bowl XLI that was met with strong criticism from many LGBTQ advocacy groups.

Snickers Super Bowl XLI Commercial,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8XbTsbkwII

The commercial was accompanied by footage released on Snickers’ website that showed professional football players reacting to the actions in the commercial. The excuse for the content of the commercial was to “capture the attention of Snickers’ core consumers.”[1] Correctly identified by the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the suggestion that in order to be a man does not include kissing other men is completely reprehensible. The assertion that “core” Snickers consumers enjoyed the commercial completely alienates people of the LGBTQ community that may have enjoyed Snickers, and feeds into the ostracizing of people that identify as LGBTQ.

Unfortunately, in the chocolate industry the form of feminizing chocolate and the association of hetero-female sexuality is not a new phenomena. Though two men kissing is no less manly than whatever acts are considered manly, such as working on a car or causing physical pain to another man, Snickers looked to feminize the two men that accidentally kissed, claiming that such an action is not manly. Emma Robertson in Chocolate, Women, and Empire  identifies the early marketing of chocolate as being something that women consume and is reserved for heterosexual people.[2] The images of elegant women being courted by men were common images seen in advertising. However, the images and sexualization of women as it pertained to chocolate transformed into chocolate turning men to be “women-like” and, according to Snickers,  making men momentarily lose their sense of manhood.

How would portraying that message be quality a quality contributor to society? How would mocking the idea of men kissing, and isolating LGBTQ members be responsibly? With those heavy questions, one would imagine Snickers would not be such a tasteless decision twice. Think again. 


[1] Clark, Amy. “Snickers ‘Kiss’ Super Bowl Ad Pulled.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 11 Jan. 2013, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/snickers-kiss-super-bowl-ad-pulled/.

[2] Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Getting Racial

One of Snickers’ latest commercials features singer-songwriter Elton John and rapper Anthony “Boogie” Dixson. The seemingly light-hearted transformation of an iconic pop star turned gritty rapper via Snickers has many racial implications that spans the chocolate confectionery market.

“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Snickers ,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO2qHuEs80Q

A close viewing of the commercial reveals many aspects that are racially charged. The setting of a lower-income household typically seen in the Los-Angeles suburban/urban areas is surrounded by typical scenery in many LA-based films. Individuals are casually dressed participating in different leisurely activities. When entering the household the viewer is met by the image of a group of people, mostly black, viewing a rap battle. The first person viewers see engaging in the battle is a black man dawning dread locks, and the crowd is reacting positively to his insults of the other participant. As the battle transitions to the other participant the viewer sees Elton John, an openly gay white-English performer, dressed in his typical flashy clothing. Predictably, as Elton John begins to sing one of his hit singles “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” the crowd reacts unfavorably. As expected Elton John is offered a Snickers to satisfy his apparent hunger and be the type of person that would fit into that sort of setting. With one bite of the Snickers Elton Johns turns into a straight black-American man, with the grittiness to fit into that environment.

There are many aspects to unpack in the commercial, but the three that are the most apparent are sexual orientation, race, and economic status. As unpacked before, the assertion that a gay person engaging in a seemingly manly or gritty activity is outside of their character is, again, an antiquated belief in society. Though not an explicitly stated portion of the commercial, it is an underlying message that a person could readily identify. Another, implied aspect in the commercial is that of economic status. Though chocolate initially was marketed as an exotic luxury only to be enjoyed by those in the elite classes, as it was widely manufactured and available to those in middle and lower classes, its identity has changed. As in the commercial, Elton John, a highly recognizable performer of high society is found out of place in a low income community. With one bite of the Snickers Sir Elton John transforms into everday rapper Boogie, someone that appears to fit perfectly into the lower community. From the differences in speech to the differences in clothing, Snickers implies the type of person that belongs in that community, and the class of people that would/should enjoy their affordable product.

Lastly, the image of a white man turning into a black man is one of the more racist images portrayed in chocolate marketing. The parallel between blackness and chocolate was a common theme in many early advertisements.

Rowntree’s Honeybunch,
https://chocolateclass.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/no-more-misogynoir-challenging-the-problematic-depictions-of-african-women-in-chocolate-advertising/



Tying the image of a stereotypical black children using the characters of Honeybunch and Little Coco to chocolate was a common practice in the early to mid-20th Century. From the appearance of dark skin and big lips, to the manner of speech, the black caricature developed was a popular and highly recognizable image.[1] However, the otherness portrayed in the Snickers ad is not one trying to portray an exotic foreignness, rather a familiarity. The image of a black person in the ghetto is supposed to be familiar to the international public. The portrayal of living in a lower-income community is supposed to be portrayed as a cool or hip experience, something that one bite of chocolate can help you experience without facing the real-world implications of it.

The racial, socioeconomic, and heterosexual themes played out in Snickers’ advertisements are a distant reality from the Quality and Responsibility that Mars claims to uphold. In fairness, Snickers does have commercials and ad campaigns that due reach that ideal, but that does not excuse the areas in which it could use much improvement.


[1] Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

Sustainability

As company that looks to act responsibly and has the freedom to make sustainable decisions, Snickers is not looked on favorably as a sustainable product. According to rankabrand data collected in 2016, Snickers received a D grade in sustainability. Rankabrand uses 28 questions/qualifiers for a sustainable product, Snickers only satisfied 8 of the qualifiers. The qualifiers are grouped into categories of Climate Change/Carbon Emissions, Labor Conditions/Fairtrade, and Environmental Policy.[1]


[1] https://rankabrand.org/chocolate-brands/Snickers#detailed-report

Snickers Sustainability,

https://rankabrand.org/chocolate-brands/Snickers#detailed-report

Such a low grade proves that Mars’ proclaimed commitment to leading the industry in sustainability is not met by action. Sustainability is not just how much a brand claims to commit to change, but where its commitment is placed. Failing to use a significant amount of renewable energy, failing to ensure to buy their raw materials from plantations that are certified to not use child labor, and failing to commit to reducing its carbon footprint to a significant amount are large enough factors to conclude Snickers failure as a sustainable industry leading brand.

Conclusion

Mars has a long road ahead of it before it can claim being an industry leader in the chocolate manufacturing industry. The award winning ad campaign is littered with images and themes that are reminiscent of a racist and bigoted past. While making allowance for jokes and humor, the suggestion of otherness when in relation to sexual orientation, gender, or race is unacceptable. Tapping into prejudices to increase revenues is not being a company of quality or responsibility. As a company that aims to be sustainable it largely falls short of even being average. Snickers’ status of being an industry leader in popularity of product is indisputable, its stronghold of the chocolate bar market is squarely secured with very little challenge from any other brand. But to what cost does Snickers retain its throne, who is Snickers when it’s hungry? Apparently, it is a company that speaks boldly about innovation but whose actions reflect one of a selfish manufacturer that is only worried about its profit margins. It is a company that doesn’t insure its products are free of slavery, it doesn’t make sure that its impact on the planet is minimal, and feeds into antiquated and dangerous stereotypes.

Works Cited

Clark, Amy. “Snickers ‘Kiss’ Super Bowl Ad Pulled.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 11 Jan. 2013, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/snickers-kiss-super-bowl-ad-pulled/.

CNBC, The Daily Meal. “America’s Favorite Chocolate Candies.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 2018, http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/americas-favorite-chocolate-candies.

Miller , James. “Case Study: How Fame Made Snickers’ ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ Campaign a Success.” Campaign US, 2016, http://www.campaignlive.com/article/case-study-fame-made-snickers-youre-not-when-youre-hungry-campaign-success/1413554.

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History.

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