Snickers is the world's top-selling candy bar, and a key pillar of the Mars confectionery portfolio. According to research from Euromonitor, it overtook stablemate M&Ms as the world's best-selling confectionery product in 2012. Global retail sales are estimated at around $3.7bn, almost half of that from the US, where it is the #1 impulse snack bar, and among the top five take-home brands. The product comes in several sizes, as well as in the form of ice cream bars and cones, and scoop ice cream.
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Snickers is positioned as a satisfying confectionery snack designed to reduce hunger. Alongside the main product, Mars has experimented with several variant formulations in the US, testing Snickers Cruncher with crisped rice in 2001. This has been resurrected periodically for special promotions. Other variants have included Almond Snickers in 2003, Snickers Dark (with dark chocolate) in 2007, and Snickers Peanut Butter Squared (two half-size square bars in a single wrapper) in 2010. In 2013, Mars US launched Snickers Egg, an Easter-themed treat.
Another unusual experiment was the launch in 2003 of a Snickers Marathon energy bar, also available in Low Carb and Protein Performance variants. This has survived as a specialist sports snack. It was replaced in 2008 for the wider consumer market with a different version containing added caffeine and taurine under the name Snickers Charged. That product was later discontinued. Bite-sized Snickers Bites were introduced in 2014 in the US as a bagged snack. Three variant versions of the main bar were tested in late 2017: Snickers Espresso, Snickers Salty & Sweet and Snickers Fiery.
Several international markets have also experimented with spin-off versions, such as Snickers Cruncher. Mars' Russian subsidiary even tested Snickers Mad Mix, with added sunflower seeds and caramel. The biggest change in Snickers' history came in 2012 following a decision by Mars to reduce the calorie content of all its chocolate products to no more than 250 calories "per portion". (A regular Snickers bar was previously 280 calories, rising to 510 for king-size bars.)
The brand was extended into ice cream for the first time in 1989, initially in the US through a joint venture with Dreyers, although that arrangement was terminated in 2003. The company now markets its own ice cream. The Snickers brand is also a major sponsor of global sporting events, including Little League baseball, NFL and NASCAR racing in the US, and the international FIFA Soccer World Cup.
In the US, Snickers is the top-selling chocolate bar, ahead of Kit Kat and Hershey's, but is outsold locally by Reese's and M&Ms. In the UK, Snickers is the company's #6 seller behind Galaxy, Maltesers, M&Ms, Celebrations and Mars Bar. Nielsen estimated local sales of £72m in 2016.
In a global confectionery industry that faces considerable challenges from consumer concerns over healthly eating, Snickers has enjoyed some degree of stability as a result of an enormously successful and adaptable marketing campaign. Agency BBDO first struck upon the "You're Not You When You're Hungry" concept in the US in 2010, and has gradually rolled it out globally, adapting it to numerous different ad formats with great skill. In its first year, the campaign was reported to have increased global sales of Snickers by almost 16% and increased share in 56 of the 58 markets in which it ran.
For example, in print, the brand has purchased the back cover of Sport Illustrated's celebrated annual swimsuit issue for three years in a row between 2015 and 2017 to feature different ideas as to what might happen to magazine art directors if they are hungry. The first reimagined the cover model as an angry Medusa rather than a bikini beauty; the second featured the work of a supposedly hungry photo retoucher, with numerous errors; and in 2017 there were two alternate versions: one reimagined the magazine as the swimsuit issue of American Antiques; the other as Small Pets Monthly.
In one of its most complex and inventive executions, BBDO negotiated a partnership in Australia between Snickers and retailer 7-Eleven, tied to social media. The "Hungerithm" campaign monitored the mood of Australian social media users by analysing thousands of post a minute. On the basis that "you're not you when you're hungry", the price of Snickers at 7-Eleven outlets was automatically reduced, the angrier the internet became. That campaign won a multitude of awards at ad festivals in 2017, including a Gold two Silvers and a Bronze Lion at Cannes.
For the 2017 Super Bowl, the brand leaked in advance the news that actor Adam Driver would be appearing in a live mid-game commercial. Driver then completely messed up the supposedly live spot with a series of errors. In another adventurous execution, the British cable channel Dave, which tends to specialise in blokey and irreverent comedy shows and panel games, temporarily rebranded as "Rupert" in 2017, replacing its usual content with mock-live coverage of chess championships and museum tours. The concept was extended across all Dave's social media channels as well, but was "cured" as soon as the channel ate a Snickers bar.
Berta De Pablos-Barbier is president, Mars Wrigley Confectionery USA. Allison Miazga-Bedrick is senior brand director, filled bars portfolio North America. Other marketers include Josh Olken (brand director), Mike Italia (senior brand manager) and Christie Sheffield (senior associate brand manager). Christoph Weber is brand director, UK.
The Snickers bar was first introduced in 1930, as a follow-up to company founder Franklin Mars's successful Milky Way, launched seven years earlier. He named the product after his favourite horse. Priced at 5 cents, the Snickers bar was an immediate hit with American consumers, and Mars tried a number of alternative formats including twin-packs (The "Snickers Double Bar", sold between 1933 and 1935). In 1939, as ice-boxes became more widely available, Mars took advantage of this new technology, suggesting in his advertising "Have you tried Snickers frozen?". A decade later it became the lead sponsor of The Howdy Doody Show, one of the earliest, and also longest-running children's shows on American television. Following Frank Mars' death, his estranged son Forrest, who had already built a substantial business of his own in Europe, seized control of the US company, and began introducing its products into foreign markets for the first time.
The Snickers bar was launched in the UK in 1968, but under the name Marathon. (This was apparently to avoid any embarrassment or humour caused by its similarity to the word "knickers". The Marathon name was finally dropped in 1990, before being hauled out of the closet again in 2003 for an energy bar variant). From there it moved on around the globe, and is now available in more than 40 countries. In July 2005, the product was temporarily withdrawn from sale in parts of Australia after the company received letters claiming that a small number of bars had been deliberately poisoned. It returned to sale in August without further incident. In 2007, an ad created by TBWA and aired during the Super Bowl caused a public outcry for showing two manly car mechanics accidentally kissing while sharing a Snickers bar. The spot was criticised by homophobic Snickers buyers, and also by gay and lesbian groups for encouraging prejudice. The campaign was dropped soon afterwards.
Rather more popular was the Super Bowl 2010 spot featuring octogenarian actress Betty White, which introduced a new campaign theme of "You're not you when you're hungry". Several other ads followed, with guest appearances from celebrities as varied as Liza Minnelli & Aretha Franklin, Joe Pesci, Joan Collins & Stephanie Beacham, Robin Williams (in 2013) and Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean (2014).
Last full revision 10th November 2017
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