I Doff My Cap to... Snickers

I Doff My Cap to….
Matthew Hayes.

Matthew Hayes Managing Director

May 25th, 2021

There are some advertising campaigns that remain in the minds of thousands of consumers, largely due to their memorable slogans and consistent appearance on our screens. One perfect example of this is Snickers with its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign.

Running for over six years and dominating 58 markets, this project earnt parent company, Mars, a growth of 15.9%, as well as many awards including two Effectiveness Lions and an IPA Gold.

Starting its journey in Washington back in the 1930s, Snickers is now a globally renowned chocolate bar and has cemented itself amongst the confectionary greats of the world. No matter where you are on the planet, you’ll never have a hard time finding a Snickers bar in the local supermarket or petrol station.

This is all down to the perfect combination of being a great quality product, supported with strong branding, that promotes it's USP's and benefits its customers enjoy. And it’s for that reason in particular, I doff my cap.

Snickers: the brand crisis

Snickers is a brand name that was coined by its parent company, Mars Incorporated. Now, as one of the most recognised brand names in the world, Mars is able to sell more than 400 million Snickers bars per year.

Much of this success comes down to the advertising and branding of this chocolate bar. However, this wasn’t always the case as the Snickers bar experienced two identity crises: one in 1990, when the formerly named Marathon bar became Snickers, and another in 2007.

From 1930 to 1990, the Snickers bar was originally called Marathon, but only in the UK. This caused some confusion regarding global branding and restricted the brand from being consistent in their marketing efforts. As a result, Snickers were not able to fully establish themselves in all global markets - consumers need consistency and familiarity to begin building a positive relationship with a brand and in this case, Snickers were lacking in that department.

Upon realising this, Snickers worked to rebrand the bar to be called Snickers in the UK to be more in line with the rest of the world.

Moving onto more recent times, a once clear and defined marketing message became a shamble due to the lack of consistency in Mars’ advertising of this product, causing Snickers to lose much of its social impact.

In 2007, Snickers released its “Manly” Super Bowl commercial. However, this was promptly pulled due to receiving a huge number of complaints as it was believed to fuel existing mainstream homophobia.

As well as this, the advert failed to fully represent the Snickers brand and what it stands for. Frankly, the advert could have been for anything.

To make matters worse, different markets were releasing independent messages rather than sticking to a consistent theme. Over time, this caused Snickers to lose connection with its consumers. Snickers needed to realign its global communications to establish itself as an iconic global brand. There is an equation that I will always work with that demonstrates this: consistency x frequency = success. Another great example of this approach is Jack Daniels, who use consistency to promote their brand identity, history and values.

Consistency is incredibly important and can have a huge impact on a brand. For example, brand consistency equates to brand recognition. This is because when you remain consistent in all your marketing efforts, including having the same tone of voice and visual branding throughout, you are more likely to be recognised by consumers when they see your adverts, campaigns or products. This then leads to feelings of familiarity and trust being developed for your brand by your audience which is another crucial factor for success.

Another reason Snickers lost its way was by no longer focusing on the brand itself. One of the great things about Snickers is its ability to actually quench the hunger of consumers while acting as a sweet and enjoyable treat at the same time. However, Snickers temporarily lost sight of this and left out the benefits of the product from its advertising campaigns.

The great marketing comeback

However, it was not all doom and gloom for Snickers. With its “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign, came a new breath of life for the brand.

I doff my cap to this campaign for a variety of reasons. Particularly, I was impressed with its ability to pull off a global cross over, developing a strengthened understanding of what exactly Snickers is, what it stands for and what it offers to the consumer.

The messaging of “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” was seamlessly applied across all mediums, allowing Snickers to create a consistent brand message.

Another reason that I hugely respect Snickers is its ability to take risks in order to save the brand. As previously mentioned in previous instalments, I mentioned how I will always respect a brand that isn’t afraid to take risks in order to get things done, and this is exactly what Snickers was able to do.

In 2009, as Snickers slowly began emerging from its branding crisis, the brand made the decision to play to its strengths and started to leverage the assets that it had previously spent millions to develop. This included the logo, the classic colourway and the product image focusing on the USP, being the rip-open packaging of the bar.

The 2010 Super Bowl ad, which sparked the beginning of the “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign, saw clear and consistent branding being used by Snickers. Right down to the colour of the mud, Snickers made sure that its content was 100% on brand, and since then, have never let up, applying this consistency throughout its current marketing efforts.

The role of brand audits

I think, one of the key ways to come back from a branding crisis is to take advantage of brand audits. By understanding your assets and how to use them effectively, you can produce maximum value.

Regarding Snickers, the brand needed to look at its consumer persona if it wanted to establish itself within its chosen market. Snickers is a large chocolate bar with peanuts – hence the high calorie count and often being referred to as a “meal in itself”. This makes it the domain of the younger male who is not weight-conscious and just wants to satisfy their hunger.

This links closely to the growth in popularity of protein products in recent years. With the protein industry booming, Snickers has clearly understood that while its product is high in calories, the ingredients that drive this are also large protein providers. Therefore, the brand was able to turn the negative into a positive and join the growing submarket.

Hunger vs desire

Although, fundamentally, the messaging focused on satisfying hunger, a basic need we all have, the branding behind it allowed Snickers to cross the line of a commodity, to become a desired product.

Ultimately, there’s a reason that customers choose a Snickers bar over other food items that will settle their hunger just as well. And this preference has a lot to do with the success of its branding. Thanks to its humorous emotional connection, the consistency of the messaging and branding elements combined with its worldwide success, consumers want a Snickers bar, rather than need it.

And creating that want is much more powerful than simply being a need. This is because typically, consumers base purchasing decisions on products they need on price alone. But with wanted products, brands can charge premium prices and not lose business as the perceived value and quality created by the brand behind it satisfies more than just the basic need.

You might not be you when you’re hungry, but you’re a better you, with a Snickers.

A message that remains in today’s climate

It’s not uncommon for a brand slogan to become irrelevant over time. However, Snickers have continued to stay relevant, even in times of great uncertainty. This can be seen in the 2020 “Fix the World” Superbowl commercial.

And whilst it does not feature the typical brown colour-scheme that can be seen in previous ads, something that Snickers often relies on, the overarching message of the advert rings true.

Playing on the back of the original “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” messaging, the advert nodded to the universal sentiment that the world is not itself right now and that Snickers can make you feel like yourself again.

The slogan, that was slowly becoming more of a nostalgic marketing campaign, was able to be revived and applied to a more modern notion, bringing the messaging behind the Snickers bar to life once more.

Sometimes, experiencing times of uncertainty with your branding can be exactly what you need to revaluate your practices in order to create a stronger and more consistent brand. Snickers took advantage of this branding crisis – instead of hiding from its previously failed campaigns or accepting reducing market share, they made the most of its circumstances, creating one of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time. For that reason, I doff my cap to Snickers. The brand's ability to override mistakes with impactful campaigns proved its hunger for success and ultimately, created the brand we all know and love today.


Send Us a Message

Champions (UK) plc needs the contact information you provide to us on this form to contact you about the product or services you have shown interest in.