Responsible Marketing and Our Marketing Code
With many well-known brands loved worldwide, we take responsible marketing seriously. Marketing is one way that we connect with people and it determines how our brands, products and services show up to the world. In line with our purpose that ‘the world we want tomorrow starts with how we do business today’ and our Five Principles, we believe that with a strong commitment to responsible marketing, we’re driving positive change.
As well as endorsing and abiding by the provisions contained in the International Chamber of Commerce Framework for Responsible Food and Beverage Marketing Communications, Mars was one of the first companies to launch our own Responsible Marketing Code in 2007.
The Mars Global Marketing Code for Human Food provides clear information and promotes appropriate use of our products and services. The Code applies to our marketing communications for all food, chocolate, confections, and gum products produced and licensed by Mars on a worldwide basis on all of our channels — from advertising to packaging and websites.
The heart of our Code outlines a commitment not to market to children younger than 12 years old (younger than 13 for digital communications) because, based on the scientific evidence, we believe they cannot identify and understand the persuasive intent of advertising.1 Instead, we equip gatekeepers, such as parents, with the information they need to decide what is right for their child's diet.
The Code also defines for consumers our commitments to promote our brands responsibly, as our marketing will not undermine — and where appropriate, will encourage — the pursuit of healthy, balanced diets and active lifestyles.
For some emerging topics, for example influencer marketing, we bring our code to life through specific guidelines for our marketers.
Governance and Transparency
Compliance with our Code is critical, and we have set goals to remain more than 95% compliant with media content standards and more than 97% compliant with media placement standards — both of which we exceeded in our latest reporting.
We also believe in transparency in compliance both internally and externally. Since 2018, we have been publishing an annual Governance Report that tracks our progress in implementing our Marketing Code, based on third-party audit data. We are proud to have completed our third report in 2020, for which we are able to share compliance achievements of 97% for our media content standards and 99% for our media placement standards. We are encouraged that our results continue to demonstrate that our governance practices are driving the right behavior of our Associates and agency partners in upholding the commitments that we have made to market our brands responsibly.
Beyond compliance, we actively survey other industry players’ codes and marketing efforts to ensure that we are meeting or exceeding industry standards where it matters most. We also review and update our Code approximately every three years, to ensure that our commitments align with the current public conversation about marketing and that our Code remains a living document.
With a strong commitment to responsible marketing, we’re providing consumers today with the information they need to make healthy choices for a better tomorrow.
1 We have based our Marketing Code on a number of studies, including the 2006 National Academy of Sciences report, "Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?" This report concluded that there is "strong evidence" that television advertising influences the food and beverage preferences and purchase requests of children ages 2-11, and "moderate evidence" that television advertising influences the food and beverage beliefs of children ages 2-11, and "insufficient evidence" that television advertising influences the preferences, purchase requests, or beliefs of teens age 12-18. Other studies consulted include "Is television advertising good for children? Areas of concern and policy implications" from the International Journal of Advertising; "Review of the research on the effects of food promotion to children" by the U.K. Food Standards Agency; " Does advertising literacy mediate the effects of advertising on children? A critical examination of two linked research literatures in relation to obesity and food choice" from the Journal of Communication; and "The development of a child into a consumer" from the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.