Mars encourages coupon-clipping kindness

Mars' chocolate division wants to be known for more than its iconic bar - a goal behind a new campaign to foster the exchange of millions of free chocolate bars.

The chocolate division of Mars launched a new campaign last week, ‘Random Acts of Chocolate,’ giving out millions of chocolate bars through a couponing program and donating $30,000 to charitable organizations.

More than eight million coupons for free chocolate will be handed out this spring as part of the campaign, anchored on The coupons will be distributed via retailers, where displays will drive consumers to the site, and through 8.5 million free-standing inserts distributed inside national and community newspapers. Another 100,000 coupons will be sent to those who sign up on the website, where people are encouraged to give the free chocolate ‘to someone special.’

Consumers can also nominate a charitable organization for the chance to have $10,000 donated in their name. Three such prizes are up for grabs in the campaign that runs through mid-May.

‘The origins of the program are about enabling the consumers to create their own random acts of kindness,’ TJ Kanaris, brand director for Mars Canada, tells MiC. The brand commissioned a Leger marketing survey that found that only 42% of consumers said received an act of kindness in the previous week – a low figure they hope to change with the campaign.

During the economic downturn much of the brand survival rhetoric that marketers heard was about dollar value to a consumer, and by extension, about connecting with their inherent values, and this campaign leverages both those ideas, says Kanaris.

‘Mars as an organization doesn’t mean anything to consumers. If you ask a consumer, ‘what brands do they sell?’ you probably hear back ‘Mars bar’ and that’s it,’ says Kanaris. Mars also makes M&Ms, Snickers and Dove in its chocolate division, as well as chewing gums Orbit and Extra and a variety of pet foods among other products.

‘This is our first foray into starting to build some awareness around the Mars brand, introducing a program [where the] values are closely related to Mars the organization or Mars the chocolate division,’ Kanaris says.

‘If at the completion of the program, or at least year one of the program, the consumer takes away which brands are part of Mars Canada, that would be a wonderful form of success.’