Mars' 10-Point Guide to Innovation

Geoffrey Precourt

"You hear about a lot of ideas. And none of them looks like a fit. And that can be hard," admitted Debra Sandler, Chief Consumer Officer at Mars Chocolate, the company whose 2010 launch of M&M's Pretzel Chocolate Candies all but added a new category to the U.S. snack-food business.

"What should you be looking for? The insight that's the closest to the undone job, the needed thing," she told the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2011 Creativity conference in New York. "Dig into one or two of those insights. Big ideas often don't come until execution."

Parent company Mars didn't start by looking for a pretzel/chocolate candy combination to extend its M&M brand. But a convergence of several ideas (people like pretzels; they also like sweets; they like to snack, but they also watch their calories) and technologies (Mars had the manufacturing processes in place that it could protect with a patent) that came together "for a big idea that we could blow off the map".