- Ben's Original debuted its first marketing campaign since rebranding from Uncle Ben's last September, according to a news release.
- The Mars Food-owned label worked with agency The&Partnership on "Everyone's Original," a fully integrated effort that emphasizes the value of different perspectives. Ads depict six real families from diverse backgrounds as they make an array of dishes using the same bag of Ben's Original jasmine rice.
- Launching today in the U.S., the push will expand to Australia, the U.K., Germany, Canada and France in the months ahead and encompasses TV, digital, social and video-on-demand formats. It serves as a key test of how receptive consumers will be to the brand as it tries to put an image many viewed as racially problematic — but that was nevertheless ingrained in culture — in the rearview.
Ben's Original is doubling down on themes of diversity and inclusion after dropping the Uncle Ben's branding in September due to criticism that it enforced racial stereotypes.
The original moniker was ostensibly inspired by a real Texas rice farmer, depicted on packaging and other marketing materials by a Chicago waiter named Frank Brown. The Mars Food label joined several other packaged foods brands in sunsetting long-standing, recognizable mascots and iconography that were called into question amid a historic reckoning stemming from the police killing of George Floyd.
Aunt Jemima, the pancake syrup and breakfast brand owned by PepsiCo, in February switched its name to Pearl Milling Company, a reference to where it was invented. Other products like Cream of Wheat and Mrs. Butterworth's are still undergoing review. While Mars announced the Ben's Original changes in the fall, the revamped products only started hitting store shelves in the U.S. in May.
Now, Mars Food is looking to enshrine the product as one centered closer to purpose and welcoming people from different walks of life. The extensive integrated campaign debuting today draws on "unique recipes, traditions and interactions" of a range of groups that constitute family, including a Black nuclear family, a pair of friends, three roommates, a single-parent home, a family who uses sign language and a multigenerational Pakistani family. Videos include a minute-long anthem spot and longer behind-the-scenes video of the shoot that profiles some of the cast and features Mars Food Global CMO Rafael Narvaez.
"It was important to me that we don't jump into action immediately, but that we listen. Actively listen first," Narvaez says in the video.
Mars Food also highlighted its actions at the community level, such as a Seat at the Table scholarship fund created by Ben's Original that supports aspiring Black culinary students. Similar apprenticeships will roll out in the U.K. later this year, per the announcement.