M&M’s – Brand Engagement

The confectionery conglomerate Mars – who produce the Mars Bar (as expected), Snickers and cat food Whiskers (not so expected) – have just opened their London flagship store for their M&M’s sweets.  The store is part of  a £10 million marketing drive to improve the brand awareness of M&M’s in the U.K. to the similar levels in the U.S.A, where their sweet characters are more widely recognised.  The store serves three purposes: a shop, a tourist destination and, last but not least, to allow consumers to engage with the brand.  It is the last purpose I will focus on.

I think this is a great way to improve brand awareness.  The best form of developing relationships with customers – the essence of marketing – is through communication and interaction.  But all too often companies simply roll out a new ad and subject their consumers to boring messages.  Not only is this actually innovative, it is simply far more effective.  Attractions such as chocolate walls, M&M chandeliers and the ability to customise your own sweets will easily create more of a buzz.

The real reason why this improves brand awareness is that it makes consumers want to engage with the brand.  Visitors to a retail outlet actively choose to enter and are free to explore a great range of merchandise.  Whereas other forms of communication with consumers are normally initiated by the company.  This is similar to something marketing guru Seth Godin calls ‘Permission Marketing’ – the best marketing is welcomed by the consumer and not forced upon them.  The benefits of this are clear: Mars marketing director Alex Brittain claims that visitors spend an average of 40 minutes browsing the store.

All the while, consumers are having fun and developing their relationship with the brand.


The only issue with this strategy, inevitably, is the cost.  A city central location for any retailer racks up some serious rent.  And, albeit merchandise normally have huge profit margins, a vast majority of visitors will not actually even spend any money.  That, however, is irrelevant.  I am confident the long-term benefit of creating an effective brand will easily pay long-term dividends that justify this great idea.  It is just a question of measuring the return on investment that will prove to be a challenge.

Do you think it worth opening a whole store for M&M’s?  A cheaper alternative may be to sell the merchandise through Selfridges and set up a pop-up store instead, like Marmite.  Leave a comment below.

© Joshua Blatchford, author of Manifested Marketing, 13/07/2011

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  1. Mercedes-Benz – Brand Engagement | Manifested Marketing - Marketing Blog

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