Today Snickers and Gay Star News launch a campaign to help you ‘be who you are’.
We want to promote friendship and the support network we all give each other. That’s what Snickers stands for – good friendship and being your true self, because that is always your best self.
My dad was in the building industry. And 20 years ago he had a colleague come out as trans woman. And I remember dad coming home and just saying ‘we are mates so we’ll stand together’.
That was 20 years ago. When I think about that now, I think what a hero that trans woman was to do that in the building industry.
But I also think we all need friends.
That’s what the Snickers brand is about. Snickers is a band of brothers. Everyone takes the mickey out of each other. But they all include and love each other and accept each other for who they are.
That’s why we are sponsoring Gay Star Support.
This new part of the site will tell stories of LGBTI people and provide resources to help you be yourself even at the toughest times.
And we will use our advertising to push the message that everyone should ‘be who you are’.
Building on our work around disability
We’ve just done a hugely successful campaign with another Mars brand, Maltesers.
People with disabilities told us they wished everyone could break the tension and look at the lighter side.
The stories they came up with were so funny and so touching. Ok, we turned them into ads. But they are real stories about real people.
And the reactions were amazing.
One woman from Canada had spent her whole life believing sex and disability couldn’t be talked about. She said making it into an advert for a chocolate was just so liberating.
Meanwhile a trans colleague told me: ‘You make me feel Mars is representing everybody.’
I’ve been at Mars 23 years and I’ve had some amazing experiences. But this feels like a real legacy. Now I want to build on it.
So why aren’t all brands doing it?
Generally speaking, brands across the UK aren’t diverse or representative. We should all be better reflecting today’s society in our advertising.
Many companies fear getting it wrong. I fear that too.
The worse case is you look tokenistic. And there’s nothing worse than a brand looking inauthentic. It can destroy your credibility.
Our breakthrough on that with Maltesers was partnering with Scope, the disability charity. With Snickers, it’s partnering with Gay Star News. We need that advice and we want to really do something to help.
A lot of companies see dealing with their diversity as just another problem.
At Mars, we’ve realized it is part of the answer. You connect with millennials by being authentic and representational. You solve some of your biggest business issues by being a company people want to come and work for.
Why does ‘Be who you are’ matter to us?
We love the idea we can support LGBTI people to be themselves. It matters to our Snickers brand, our business and to me personally.
I volunteered for years as a Samaritan. And they are at the real hard edge of what happens if people’s mental health isn’t looked after.
It’s no surprise mental health is a huge issue in the LGBTI community too. How can you be mentally healthy if you are hiding an element of yourself – even if it’s you’re out at home and not at work? Living with that tension damages you.
So we need to do everything we can to encourage people to ‘be who you are’.
We know that’s not always easy, for LGBTI people or anyone. Our campaign and Gay Star Support won’t solve all your problems.
But we can give people inspiration and encouragement, especially when they are going through tough times. And we can send a message to look out for your friends and to ask for help when you need it.
Mars is family, values-led business. And we genuinely want people to be themselves and we do what we can to support them.
At work, I tell my team ‘bring your wobbly bits to work’. We all have wobbly bits. None of us is perfect. But it’s in those imperfections you get creativity, you get spark, and you get teams who pull together.
The more you embrace every element of a person, the more fun life is, the more interesting it is and the happier it is.
LGBTI support at Mars
My LGBTI colleagues at Mars have been amazing as we’ve made our plans. One friend of mine created a poll so they could vote on which ideas they thought were best.
Another guy in my team told me about being bullied at school and about how he came out. It’s been amazing to hear those stories and see how keen people are to help.
That’s already fulfilling one of my ambitions for this campaign.
I want the Snickers brand to represent the people who love it and buy it.
But I also want it to help us improve what we do internally for LGBTIs. I want people to see Mars is the kind of place they may want to come and work because it’s a really inclusive place.
The rainbow Snickers bar
As part of this work, we are putting the Snickers bar into rainbow colors on our ads.
The brand already stands for inclusivity – about being who you are. But it is also an iconic masculine brand.
By putting the rainbow on that, we are celebrating the diversity of the male pack, rather than the male stereotype. That disruption of an iconic brand is very powerful.
Actually, it takes the brand to a whole new level.
We all know Snickers tells us ‘you are not yourself when you are hungry’. Now it will be telling us ‘your friends will accept you whoever you are, in all your rainbow colors’.
The rainbow Snickers bar just says it in one image. And in advertising, you can’t get anything more powerful than that.