Human touch: Mondelez says empathy and localisation, not just data, needed to win consumers

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Global snack giant Mondelez International has revealed that it is taking a new approach dubbed ‘humaning’ in its marketing and product innovation post-COVID. ©Mondelez Malaysia
Global snack giant Mondelez International has revealed that it is taking a new approach dubbed ‘humaning’ in its marketing and product innovation post-COVID. ©Mondelez Malaysia

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Global snack giant Mondelez International has revealed that it is taking a new approach dubbed ‘humaning’ in its marketing and product innovation post-COVID, arguing ‘empathy and localisation’ are needed to win over consumers.

According to the firm, the majority of brand marketing today is veering towards being ‘cautious and data-driven’​, but it believes that a more human touch is required to really connect with consumers today.

“We have developed this ‘humaning’ strategy towards our marketing which will guide us to develop real human connections with a purpose with our consumers – this will in turn ensure that we do all the necessary social listening, empathising and adapting to meet consumers’ real needs in our product propositions, as opposed to just trying to market our brands,”​ Mondelez International Head of Marketing for Malaysia and Singapore Arpan Sur told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“The common approach today towards targeted marketing is to use data and AI – and we are still using a lot of data and technology, but in these current times, we have found that there is a need for a lot more empathy if we want to bring our marketing to the next level.

“This means taking a consumer-centric approach to marketing with regard to relevance and timing and what is wanted and needed instead of focusing on just selling a brand.”

Sur added that to achieve relevance, appropriate and smart localisation of both marketing and products is important to resonate with consumers.

“Malaysia for example just celebrated its Merdeka (Independence Day), but at the same time many people are still struggling from the impacts of COVID-19 including small food operators. For the past few years, we have launched special Cadbury flavours for Merdeka, but this year based on the humaning approach we opted to go beyond just launching a limited edition flavour,”​ said Sur.

“Of course we did create a very relevant localised flavour – Pandan Coconut, which will remind most Malaysians of traditional kueh (desserts)  – but beyond this we also ran the Merdeka campaign such that they could help local kueh sellers, many of whom are struggling, and we put these sellers in the spotlight and tried to stay in the background so they can hopefully get their stalls up and running again.

“This is an example of keeping things relevant and tying in with a local occasion, yet remaining emphatic about the tough times people are going through and giving consumers an opportunity to help those who need it.”

In Singapore, Mondelez’s implementation of its humaning strategy was also relevant to the current COVID-19 impacts, but from an entirely different point-of-view.

“Singapore is a more developed nation and has the distinction of having a large expatriate population,”​ said Sur.

“Most years, these consumers would head back to their home countries during Easter which is a pretty big thing in the West – but due to COVID-19, many had to stay back this year.

“We empathised with this, and decided to activate Easter in a bigger way than usual – Easter is characterised by Easter egg hunts, so we tried to be relevant by organizing a virtual egg hunt for them to participate in. Maybe this would not be quite so relevant in other years, but this year due to COVID-19, again the importance of empathizsing with what people are going through took precedence.”

Mondelez is employing the ‘humaning’ strategy as a global approach, though executing this locally in its various markets.

Trying not to be forgotten

He stressed that in these times, the ‘humaning’ strategy is crucial for Mondelez to maintain its leading snack brand position.

“At the heart of it, consumers have many options to choose from and will only really notice and pay attention to a brand if it is truly relevant to them and there is a feeling of authenticity and genuineness that goes beyond just pushing a brand name,”​ he said.

“Marketing in the digital age today also makes this even more important as where advertisements were previously on the television and had to be sat through most of the time, today most consumer will see our ads via digital media like their phones and their attention span is much lower.

“So the humaning approach is really vital to keep ourselves authentic and relevant – or with just one swipe, the brand will be lost and forgotten.”

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