Years back, I heard about a strategic consultancy pitching on Mars bars.

They felt Mars was completely out of step with the times.

Everything now was about healthy eating and losing weight, Mars was the opposite of that, they decided the problem was how to bring Mars up to date.

This is a great example of marketing people thinking the whole world is like them.

As Mark Ritson says: “The first lesson for marketing people is that you are not the market.”

But most marketing people never learn this lesson.

White collar uni-grads are obviously not the core Mars bar consumer, so who is?

More probably blue-collar, e.g., truck drivers pulling into motorway service stations.

Not someone who’s considering their waistline or shopping for health food.

At GGT, we were Cadbury’s biggest agency simply because we understood the difference between marketing strategists and real-life consumers.

Cadbury’s biggest competitor was Mars, both sold a huge range of confectionary products.

The big difference was Cadbury’s was all about the chocolate, people bought it for the taste,

Mars was what they called ‘gut-fill’, people bought it to satisfy hunger.

So you wouldn’t sell a Mars bars to a fashion model just like you wouldn’t sell a Cadbury’s Flake to a truck driver.

Flake was light and delicate, Mars was substantial and kept you going.

Understanding the difference made them two of the biggest-selling confectionary brands.

Thinking Mars needed to be made healthy and calorie-conscious was typical of strategists thinking the whole world was made up of middle-class university grads like them.

Incidentally, the product that eventually took over from Mars in sales was Twix.

This was discovered in 1967 by a lady who used to work at the factory in Slough.

In those days, employees were encouraged to experiment, to look for new ideas.

Those were the days when people would decorate cakes with Smarties, or Mini-rolls, or Cadbury’s Chocolate Fingers.

This lady said that her children’s favourite thing was when she melted a piece of Mars bar on a digestive biscuit.

She told the NPD people at the factory, and they developed the Twix bar.

The marketing people decided it would be better to sell two bars for the higher price rather than one for half price, and the Twix double was born.

Twix is now huge, not just in the UK, but also in the USA and all over the world.

And it was a working-class woman working in a factory that came up with it, not a dept of middle-class university graduates.

Because people who don’t do manual labour can’t understand the need for a product like that, so they try to fit everything into their narrow view of the world.

Their worries are all about healthy eating and calorie counting, so they think they must be the entire world’s main concerns.

Because they are called ‘strategists’ they confuse their subjectivity with genuine objectivity.

Marketing is driven by a need to stay fashionable, marketing’s main concern is image.

Consequently, marketing is more concerned with brand-purpose rather than sales.

Their environment is people like themselves, so that is their world.

It’s the posh version of the Dunning-Kruger effect:

They don’t know, and they don’t know they don’t know, so they think they know.

There’s an ancient Chinese expression that I think is appropriate:

“What can a frog that is born at the bottom of well know of the ocean?”

Perhaps if we had more working-class planners we’d have a better view of who the market really is and how they think.