CMO interview: Balancing brand nostalgia with category innovation at Mondelez

Director of marketing for the snacking giant's chocolate portfolio including Cadbury's shares the media test-and-learn, innovative thinking and brand strategy lying at the heart of its growth strategy
Paul Chatfield

Paul Chatfield

Category innovation and progressive thinking lie at the heart of the Mondelez International business model, its director of marketing for chocolate, Paul Chatfield, says. But at a time when consumers seek emotional brand connections more than ever, no brand can afford to abandon its heritage or roots.

Which is why this experienced FMCG marketer was so keen on a global brand platform launch in March that brought back Cadbury’s iconic tagline, ‘there’s a glass and a half in everyone’. It’s a significant move away from the ‘free the joy’ communications from Cadbury over recent years but a closer step towards the consumer, he says.

“That shift takes us back to the beating heart of the Cadbury brand and when it’s been at its best for the last 100 years in A/NZ, which is a strong position in families, in sharing, in human connection and generosity, all anchored in our Dairy Milk product,” Chatfield tells CMO. “‘Glass and a half’ is one of our most iconic brand benefits historically.

“What motivated us to go back to our roots is communicating with the consumer base in a way that truly resonates with them. We’re returning to where our brand was at its absolute strongest. More than ever, connectivity and being the river of shared moments has been a key standout for our Cadbury brand. It’s a logical and necessary step to go into that place.”

Demonstrating legitimacy and credibility is arguably even more important at a time where consumers are experiencing lots of change. “There are lots of new brands out there that don’t have the heritage or stand for a lot either,” Chatfield says.

“When you have such iconic brands with levels of trust, connection, love and equity, building on where you have been and how Australians and Kiwis see you can only be of benefit. It’s strengthening in a world where there is increasing concern and a questioning of who I can trust.”

Market strategy

This desire to be closer to consumers saw Mondelez evolve its organisational structure in September and bring the “centre of gravity closer to where consumers are”, Chatfield says. The organisation has moved away from global/regional category structure in favour of regional clusters, with the large bulk of business development and ownership occurring in market and marketing become a more end-to-end pursuit.

“For us, it’s an evolution towards agility and a growth-based model, driving brand preference, strengthening equity and achieving great outcomes versus just purely driving P&L,” he says. “That’s still a critical part of what we do, but it’s evolved to become brand-led and something achieved by being closer to consumers.”  

It was also at this time Mondelez promoted Chatfield from category leader to director of marketing for the chocolate portfolio, including Cadbury Dairy Milk, Roses and Marvellous Creations as well as Milka, Lacta, Toblerone and Cote D’Or. The promotion came six years into his company tenure, and after 18 years in the FMCG space.

Being closer to consumers isn’t just being reflected in the communications strategy. Mondelez is also rethinking the way its product portfolio is put together and how each snacking product relates to a consumer need at any given moment in time.

In November, the group announced SnackFutures, an innovation division aimed at identifying and responding to emerging snacking needs. Work is focused on three areas: Well-being snacks, digital platforms and premium snacks. The company will tap both internal talent as well as the entrepreneurial community to drive innovation.

“Today we’re strong as category innovators, and tomorrow you’ll see a continuation and strengthening of that, as well as see us take a broader position on snacking,” Chatfield says. “Organisationally, we’re moving from strict category approach to a more joined up, holistic snacking business. It’s about how we address the current and emerging snacking needs of consumers globally.”

Work is supported by major investments into snacking occasion research. As a marketing team, the strategy then becomes about understanding where new and emerging products fit against the diverse range of consumer needs at any given moment in time, Chatfield says.

“For instance, Cadbury is about chocolate; it’s always going to sit on the indulgent end of snacking choices and there will always be a role for that. There’s also a role for more wholesome snacks coming out of our biscuits or savoury portfolios,” he continues.

Another example from Chatfield of how Mondelez is becoming more customer-centric is building stronger environmental conscience into the product range. One example is Cocoa Life, a $500 million sustainability program working directly with cocoa farmers and a series of partners, such as Fair Trade, to have a direct impact on the ground. It led Mondelez this year to put Cocoa Life on all its Dairy Milk packaging.

In addition, Mondelez recently announced all paper-based packaging will be made from recyclable materials by 2020 and by 2025, it’ll all be recyclable.

“We’ve also recently challenge suppliers on the sustainability of palm oil. These are public commitments by the organisation and it’s about making our snacks in the right way,” Chatfield adds.

Up next: How Mondelez is transforming its media approach, plus the rise of new partnerships

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Media progression and personalisation

Being progressive and relevant is also being reflected in media and communications investment. For Chatfield, the shift has been following consumer behaviour and consumption of media.

“It’s not about certain percentages being in digital versus TV, it’s articulating what the opportunity or problem is we are solving for and how we best address it through media, for example,” he explains.  

“We’re pushing very hard into personalisation at scale, and using digital to customise messaging to consumer groups. This is about ensuring messages in a fragmented media world resonate with individuals. There’s still a major place for broadcast, but there should be a shift to ensure messages are connected and have a high degree of relevance to every person we connect with.”  

To help, Mondelez is building internal capability so teams not only know the right questions to ask, they are better at asking them, Chatfield says.

“Then it’s how to partner with agencies to engage in any given situation,” he says. “There are constant discussion around media waste and whether messages are being seen. Our focus is to see messages not only seen but activated. That’s the emphasis – investment into stronger outcomes, versus their cost.”

In addition, Chatfield is encouraging his team to test and learn different media approaches. Over the last 12 months, he’s invested in five major test-and-learn media projects, spending up to $10m and achieving success with four of five initiatives.

“That takes a leap of faith and partnership with media organisations,” he says. “But we have to test to see what will work. If we don’t do that, tomorrow will look like today and it simply can’t. There’s too much change in the market; how we consume media is rapidly changing. We have to test ahead of the curve.”  

It’s work requiring a CMO to give their teams licence to think differently, to encourage failure at speed, and to foster learning as a key cultural attribute.  

“Rather than it be about big successes and big failures at the start, it’s about uncovering the opportunity and insight sitting behind it, and quickly getting into market – that could be communications, media or product – to learn what’s working quickly then scale up,” Chatfield says.  “Speed is absolutely critical.”  

One example this year was a digital campaign for Marvellous Creations which endeavoured to anchor the brand to sporting events and build social resonance.

“Rather than going for broad brush targeting, we strive for reach but go the next level down and ensure messages we create are targeted to groups of individuals that we’ll resonate best with,” Chatfield says. “Personalisation can be applied across media, but obviously the easiest place is in digital media. But we also applied this into out-of-home, using data sources to pinpoint where there is a greater propensity for consumers to look for gifts for social occasions.”

For Chatfield, the approach also minimises static views of what consumer segments look like, or reliance on purely demographic or psychographic targeting. “Instead, you develop through consumer insight for a particular brand and what makes most sense based on behaviours you’re trying to change,” he says.

“That’s the shift. If I go back a decade, we had very defined segments in marketing that weren’t necessarily dynamic. The place we’re in now is more dynamic based on the depth of data and insight we can get. It enables us to craft communications, campaigns and I’d argue it’ll even go into crafting products and the portfolio, in a way that’s much more relevant to clusters of people. That’s exciting.”  

Another way media is being targeted by Mondelez is by identifying points of difference between groups. “That’s what we’re looking for across the groups we want to influence to drive better outcomes,” Chatfield says.

A recent hefty investment Cadbury made was into Foxtel’s entertainment platform, a 12-month integration partnership devised by The Story Lab that will see the Cadbury brand integrated into 10 multiscreen movie channels, an on-demand presence, and pop-up channels during key viewing periods.  

“Where there is increasing media fragmentation, we know we need to build deeper and stronger media partnerships. We need to have brands in those occasions where consumption is happening to form deeper connections with our brands,” Chatfield says.   

Building the back story is a further priority and one that again relates back to the authenticity consumers are seeking from brands today. An example is the 43 farmers in Tasmania supplying milk for Cadbury via the local Burnie processing plant.

“What we are able to see in terms of consistent investment in insights and research is the importance of these back stories of the brand story that have been there so long, as well as discovering new ones of critical importance,” Chatfield says. “That can be how our portfolio involves in terms of flavours – there are lots of flavour trends and you’ll see a lot of innovation in our blocks portfolio. That’s guided by trends emerging around tastes.”

The increased appetite from consumers for fresh flavours has already led Mondelez to brand partnerships. These kicked off internal products, resulting in new products blending Dairy Milk and Vegemite, as well as Dairy Milk and Oreo. More recently, it’s extended into third-party partnerships, such as that between Dairy Milk and Kettle Chips in Australia, and Dairy Milk and Allen’s Jaffas in New Zealand.

It’s not just new, however – heritage is also important here, too. “Consumer insight also shows the power of nostalgia and how some favourites in our past portfolio can come back to life,” Chatfield says.

“One great success in the last 12 months is the return of Caramilk. It was particularly iconic in NZ, where it did extremely well, and in Australia it almost had a cult following. These are great examples of understanding what consumers are interested in at a point in time. Yes, they are interested in the new and fresh flavour combinations, but they’re also keen on nostalgia and combinations that take them back.”

Marketing attributes

Throughout all of this, Chatfield’s top marketing attributes include being curious, being a lifelong learner, having an acquisitive nature and asking questions on what’s going on as today as well as what tomorrow could look like.

“It’s how you can approach whatever is in front of you in a different way to get a better outcome,” he says. “The second thing for me is being comfortable with change – it’s no doubt a constant for all of today. With change comes opportunity.

“The last attribute I’d suggest is seeing ambiguity as a way to deploy speed and agility and get through it. Being comfortable in doing that is key. And it’s not only in terms of being the marketing leader, you want that in your team overall.”  

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