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Mars and sustainability

The case
Mars chocolate bars are one of the most popular sweet treats in the Netherlands. As a nation, we consume an incredible 84 million kilos of these melty delights annually. Unfortunately, with the dwindling global supply of cocoa, chocolate is becoming increasingly scarce. Mars wanted to embrace its responsibility as one of the world's largest producers, so it set out to secure sustainable cocoa production. Their goal? To have 100% of its total global supply of cocoa certified as sustainably produced by 2020. Mars’ packaging has displayed a 'UTZ certified' label since 2011. Although consumers feel good about the origins of their chocolate when they spot this label, very few understand what the certification process actually entails. Linden & Barbosa were tasked with changing that. The challenge was not only to educate the greater public on the scarcity of the global cocoa supply, but also to bring the solution into the limelight. Mars Nederland worked actively with Solidaridad, an international NGO dedicated to responsible food production and sustainable supply chains, to support projects like training programmes for cocoa farmers.

The approach

Under the campaign moniker 'For the Love of Chocolate,' we developed a three-phase PR strategy to generate compelling content. The perfect umbrella, as it were, to tell a wide audience about the real story behind chocolate, from production through to consumption. That story was told by Dutch actress Katja Schuurman and Dutch presenter Lauren Verster, who lent a hand as campaign ambassadors. The National Geographic Channel joined the campaign as a media partner and visual content creator.

The first phase involved demonstrating the relevancy of sustainable cocoa farming. To accomplish this, we surveyed the Dutch to explore their emotional and physical ties to chocolate. The results led to video and photos of Katja Schuurman proclaiming her love of chocolate. In Amsterdam's square Leidseplein, Katja was the first to carve her name into a giant chocolate heart, thus signalling the start of the campaign.

In the second phase of our PR approach, we created a visual for the scarcity of future cocoa supply by comparing chocolate with another scarce luxury good: fine jewellery. In a first for the Netherlands, a pop-up jewellery shop featuring items made out of real chocolate was opened in Amsterdam. Presenter Lauren Verster designed a part of the collection and opened the chocolate jewellery shop. The chocolate jewellery was auctioned online, and various social media channels were integrated into the concept.

In the third and final phase of the campaign, together with the National Geographic Channel, a documentary was shot about the cocoa production. Viewers accompanied Katja Schuurman in a journey of discovery about the origins of chocolate. Following closely behind her, a pair of journalists provided first-hand reporting on all of the problems facing cocoa production. The majority of the publications were brought out in December – the most chocolate-filled month of the year – and the documentary aired on television in the same month.