Award-winning creative Mordecai, responds to Mondelez’s latest masterplan, ’humaning’, by telling the snacks giant we’ve always been human, it just wasn’t paying attention. She wonders whether it really forgot who it was selling to, or if there is something else at play.
Mondelez broadly boasted that its “unique consumer-centric approach to marketing“ creates “real, human connections with purpose“, and that it is moving Mondelez International “beyond cautious, data-driven tactics, and uncovering what unites us all”.
Cue widespread ridicule and questions over what was centric to the Mondelez marketing approach of yore, if not consumers. After all, this is the company that owns Oreo and Cadbury – it’s not like it was flogging nuclear reactors to government procurement teams.
To be fair, the commentary has been entertainingly colourful, but I also notice that it doesn’t always acknowledge the fact that Mondelez is far from being alone in its failure to see consumers as human.
In fact, this is incredibly common in business. The idea of humanity has been replaced by capitalist tropes. People are only valuable for the sales they provide. Is it any wonder, then, that one of the world’s largest snack brand owners forgot consumers have a pulse?
I’m not saying this as some self-sufficient ascetic. Like you, I work in marketing. My job, ultimately, is to sell products as part of a system where capitalism, for now, is king.
But this year the universe has given us a pause. We watched the previously unimaginable spectacle of commerce grinding to a near standstill while pubs closed and offices and schools emptied. On the flip side, we found that social media connected us more than divided us. Those pesky webcams could portal us to our most treasured. We have learned that moments could build movements.
Like no time before, we been made fully aware that we are all in this together. I remember being in my office reading about Covid sweeping across the world and writing to my colleagues about what we could and couldn’t do, urging them: “Don’t be salesy. Be human.”
Thankfully, we quickly discovered that once the autopilot went off, plenty of people out there had the same instinct: be human. You can probably come up with hundreds of ways you saw this during 2020. My direct experience includes everything from having influencers share messages about handwashing and staying home, to working with telehealth providers, to getting stars like Sia and Jason Derulo to support healthcare workers/long term patients through my client’s ‘Healing Through Music’ campaign.
What 2020 (and even Mondelez’s gauche ‘humaning’ announcement) remind us is that innovation is nothing without a culture to adopt it – a culture with a pulse.
Mary Portas got it right in her Ted Talk on the ‘kindness economy‘. “I say people culture,” the retail guru told the audience. “I don’t say consumer culture because by calling me a consumer, you just limit me to what I buy and not who I am.” As marketers, this means that from now on we start with the human truth at the heart of any brief, not some spreadsheet.
Marketing is now a values-led business with decency at its heart. To that end, Mondelez’s ‘humaning‘ is not a marketing mantra, it’s an internal memo. One that you and I need to take to heart.
Watch the full announcement video below. Make up your own mind.