“Uncertainties remain. So it’s difficult to predict, we plan to stay agile so that we can quickly pivot and change our plans,” said Anil Viswanathan, vice president – marketing, Mondelez India, while asked about plans for 2022, in a chat with Campaign India in mid-December.
And that statement couldn’t be truer. Less than 20 days since the chat, the number of daily Covid cases in India has shot up close to ten times, and a country (and a world) that was slowly and steadily getting back to the old normal, seems to be halted again.
During waves one and two, Mondelez India’s mantra was staying invested which helped build their relationship with consumers according to Viswanathan.
He explained, “From a marketing standpoint, we stayed proactive, put out campaigns and that helped our relationship with consumers.”
During the last two years, Mondelez India has invested heavily in the medium, which is the second biggest in terms of media spends for the company.
Viswanathan explained that for each of them the idea was the core and the technology to support them followed.
“It’s a culture of experimentation and a strong idea which gives us this opportunity. Some of this technology exists, and it’s available to everybody. Some brands use it, and some don’t. The differentiation is in the core idea, which it starts with. Then, very quickly, technology comes in and starts playing a role,” he said.
He added about the importance of having an ecosystem that’s willing to experiment. “Quite often, you don’t know how technology will play out and are worried whether it’s going to land and whether you’ll be able to execute it. When you’re a big brand, you don’t want to fall flat on your face, and you can’t screw up.”
Viswanathan explained that one way of making sure that the brand doesn’t fall flat on its face is a small experiment (before the big launch). He added that the Diwali brand campaign featuring Khan was first tried during Raksha Bandhan on a smaller scale with Hrithik Roshan.
The brand’s digital drive also saw it scaling up its e-commerce operations, with a separate team in place even before the pandemic hit.
“E-commerce is exploding as we speak. One of the things that worked for us was that we invested in a separate team pre-Covid. Our e-commerce business was performing well and as more people came online post-Covid we are seeing more growth here. The space is complex, and we have to evolve every day. We are happy with the progress we are making but know we have to grow faster,” he added.
While digital is growing, Viswanathan stated that Mondelez isn’t discounting print just yet.
“Print is also equally important. When you’re looking to build trust and credibility, print remains top-of-mind. Even when you’re looking to educate the consumer or disseminate slightly more factual information, print partnerships work. Regional print is becoming an integral part of our campaigns too,” he said.
After specifically talking about print and digital, Viswanathan also stated the importance of an integrated approach labelling that as where the idea comes alive.
“We believe in an integrated approach. Wherever there’s an integrated idea, it just comes alive in a better manner. We created a bank for 5Star’s ‘Do Nothing Coin’ just opposite the SBI headquarters (in Mumbai). This just makes the idea come alive in a better manner,” he said before talking about a buzzword in marketing – personalisation.
“Personalisation makes a creative so much more effective and increases ROI,” he said.
Another much talked about buzzword in the marketing world is sustainability. Mondelez places the importance of sustainably sourcing cocoa through a comprehensive community approach. The products which are an outcome of this sustainability drive come with a Cocoa Life logo.
Explaining the need for sustainability, Viswanathan added, “We have a comprehensive ESG programme with a large number of initiatives and commitments we have put up from a global and India perspective. Recyclability is a big aspect where we want to get to 100% recyclable packaging by 2025. We are in the high 90s already. We want to run our factories in a more efficient manner. We are carbon and water positive. We have a big cocoa operation which is allowing us to become carbon positive for our factory locations. There are a fair set of initiatives from a sustainable standpoint we are driving.”
Viswanathan said that brands have to make these changes because that’s what consumers want. He stated that consumers are getting more aware and that awareness is influencing the brand choices they are making.
“Gen Z doesn’t feel the pressure of complying with what their previous generations were doing. They are digital natives and are happy to be more experimentative. Brands have to have a purpose and look to save the planet,” he said.
He also had a warning for brands that are following this route and stated that they can’t charge a premium just because they are working to save the planet as Indian consumers while looking for sustainable choices, aren’t ready yet to pay a premium for the same.
Cadbury Dairy Milk role reversal film
In September 2021, Cadbury Dairy Milk rolled out a revamped version of its 1993 film which saw a girl dancing onto the pitch to celebrate her partner’s achievements on the cricket field. This version saw a female cricketer being the achiever with her male partner dancing to the ground.
While many lauded the effort, some readers and social media users believed it was lazy creative.
When asked about those sceptics, Viswanathan stated, the film emerged from consistent brand ideas.
“Everybody is welcome to have their point-of-view. We are in a social media environment where putting your view out there is possible, and we are quite conscious of it. Our campaigns are based on clear brand ideas that are consistent with what the brand has been saying for years. A majority of the consumers received it in the right way and didn’t think it was opportunistic,” he said.
He added that the company doesn’t aim to stir controversies or provoke consumers on social media. It has also looked to take on cyberbullying with its ‘Purple Hat’ campaign.
“Over a period of time, the brand has been taking on cyberbullying too. The cyberbully becomes more toxic when they don’t see opposition. When you interrupt a bully, observed social media behaviour indicates that the person stops up, and that’s what we are aiming to do,” he explained.
Plans for 2022
Viswanathan claimed that Mondelez India’s brands are in a great phase, and stepping into 2022 it will continue to build on ideas and invest in brands to keep the momentum growing.
He said, “The nature of the disruptions saw us investing more in our innovations. We are investing across the frontline (sales) and brands from the media perspective. We are also keeping the R&D going. Uncertainties remain, so it’s difficult to predict. We’ll stay agile so we can quickly pivot and change our plans. And we will focus on our people.”