Brand Equity caught up with the outgoing and incoming marketing heads for Mondelez’s largest category – chocolates
A few weeks ago, Mondelez International’s chief executive officer Dirk Van de Put discussed India’s performance for the first time during an investor call. India ac- counts for less than $1 billion of Mondelez’s $26-billion in global revenue, but Van de Put, who took over from Irene Rosenfeld in November 2017, was optimistic: “India was a standout with revenue up double-digits behind strong volume gains. We also in- creased distribution across the country and coupled that with improved in-store execution and a number of successful new product launches.”
Launches in Mondelez’s biggest category — chocolates — have been key growth drivers in India. And these happened on the watch of outgoing mar- keting chief, Prashant Peres, who moved last month to a new regional role of senior director, chocolate equity & innovations, AMEA, Mondelez International. Taking over from Peres is old Mondelez hand Anil Viswanathan, who has held various region- al and global roles at Mondelez for over 18 years.
He was until recently part of the global chocolate team driving innovation based out of Zurich. One of the feathers in his hat was the launch of 5 Star, a mainly Indian brand, in global markets. Over the past few years, Mondelez’s chocolate division has been working at premium– ising: first “tablets” with fills like caramel and Oreo and now bars with launches like Fuse and Five Star 3D. These are further augmented by locally led innovations like Lickables, which is being taken to other markets. Years ago, Mondelez took the lead in occupying traditional festivals like Rakhi and Diwali with Cadbury’s ‘kuch meetha ho jaye’, which urged Indians to trade boondi ladoos for chocolate bars.
Thus making packaged food gifting a norm, a space Ferrero Rocher has managed to partially hijack. Now Mondelez has activated even Friendship Day and Children’s Day, be- sides getting a lot more aggressive with Valentine’s Day, via limited edition offerings like the recent pop out heart from Silk. But perhaps the brand’s biggest mark has been left by its campaigns, which are some of the lon- gest running ever. So with a new marketing steward in town, will we see a change in direc- tion or perhaps even a little reinvention? The answer is an unambiguous ‘No.’ Here are the two CMOs on handling the sweetest of legacy brands.
Choc-a-block: On the category, challenges and how their brands are coping
Prashant Peres: It’s like a dream job to be able to work in chocolates. Chocolate experiences and indulgences are being used by many other categories today to upgrade portfolios. So the core category has to continue to remain relevant. Big changes in media habits and behaviour, fragmentation of channels, etc have created a fair share of challenges. The good thing is we are being very agile, based on which we’ve stayed at the top of our game as far as communication is concerned. Then there’s share battles. To be able to hold high shares, defend them and even grow them in the recent past is hugely challenging. Especially since newer players have deep pockets and are starting from a small base; so it’s easy to outgrow an incumbent. But I think we’ve stepped up to these challenges.
Anil Viswanathan: Building on what Prashant said, we’ve been putting out interesting and incremental innovations over the last few years. Be it global initiatives like Silk Oreo, Fuse or local innovations like Lickables. The challenges are around making the most of these, to continue investing in expanding and growing these and helping them drive category growth. And then we still have our core to invest behind, that’s CDM and other strong brands here like 5 Star, Perk and Gems.
Consistency is a virtue, not burden: On advertising without an expiration date and those who feel it’s iterative
Peres: The most wonderful things about CDM, 5 Star and Silk is that they’ve been sold on the same plank for almost a decade and more. Great brands are true to what the brand stands for, true to the proposition and keep it relevant. If you do that, you are at the highest order of communication and marketing. It’s very exciting for any marketer to come in and say ‘I’ll change this brand, take it to a new space and leave a mark on it.’ But the hallmark of great marketers is taking a brand to the next level without changing it. Brands are built over years and not campaign on campaign. Sure it’s not like we’ve got everything a 100% right on 5 Star. Once we realised we were losing a bit of our connect with the youth and maybe Ramesh and Suresh weren’t as cool as they were in the past, we changed the way we approached the same concept of ‘getting lost in the taste’. Because that’s where the product is and we never want to stray from that. Silk is positioned as an immersive and messy eat. We recently released a Silk song and had a contest for consumers to playback their versions. Not only did we get tremendous engagement, but we got responses in multiple languages. CDM’s communication is all about relationships and the small acts that grow these bonds. We’ve stayed true to that for decades and to ‘kuch meetha’ for over 14 years.
Viswanathan: We strongly believe in holding on to legacy. As the old adage goes, ‘Marketers get tired of their advertising before consumers do’. What we like to do is “fresh consistency”. As category and consumers evolve, new challenges crop up. Marketers need to focus on distinctive assets and leverage them in interesting ways. It’s easy to put out new pieces of communication. It’s harder to refresh the same things. Chisel it and refine it when it doesn’t work, adapt to make it relevant and cotemporary. It’s coming off a strategy and not like we’re running out of fresh things to say. These are brands that have been created and built with a lot of care and we intend to keep fresh consistency going.
source: economic times