How Customer-Centricity Guided Mondelēz International’s Digital Transformation

Illustration of a blue checkmark overlayed atop of a machine

By Javier Polit

Digital transformation is complex. In this six-part series, we’ll explore six core areas of digital transformation and hear from leading brands about how they are making an impact. Here, Mondelēz International Chief Information Officer Javier Polit discusses customer-centricity.

Global and regional marketing leaders from Mondelēz International discuss how the company puts customers at the heart of everything it does by connecting people around the world with the treats they love.

At Mondelēz International, we recognized several years back a growing consumer desire for personalized messaging. Customers simply expect more familiarity from brands now, and as a leader in consumer packaged goods, we pivoted our marketing strategy in 2019 to deliver the custom content they craved.

At the time, we were in the midst of transforming from a margin-focused company to a growth-focused one. To get there, we increased marketing spend and turned toward a customer-centric approach that required a meaningful investment in personalization. We call this concept “empathy at scale,” and it all boils down to developing the right connection with the customer at the right moment.

Three years out from our strategic pivot, customer behavior continues to evolve, as the pandemic ebbs and flows. Brands can no longer rely on traditional marketing strategies to remain relevant, and it takes tremendous business agility to keep pace. Fortunately, our customer-centric marketing approach has given us the digital maturity and nimbleness required to thrive amid change.

A deep understanding of consumers has become the bedrock that allows us to create value for them.

Data’s role in digital transformation

To drive digital transformation, we knew we had to perfect the interplay between the “art” of marketing with the “science” of data activation. This required a powerful partnership between our marketing and IT departments, with the ultimate goal of delighting our consumers with an outstanding experience.

To that end, my close partnership with Martin Renaud, chief marketing and sales officer at Mondelēz International, has proven invaluable. Martin is setting the strategy on first-party data — how we acquire it, how we use it, and how we learn from these efforts. My role is to set up the right repositories for that data and to ensure the business can access it in ways that help us better understand our consumers. The success of this partnership has advanced our deployment of empathy at scale and changed the conversations we’re having in the C-Suite.

One of our first steps to driving empathy at scale was to partner with Google Cloud, building data hubs to access our first-party data by region. To take full advantage of this data, we made a significant investment to train our teams in data management.

At the same time, we partnered with Google Ads to create a three-tiered strategy to bring empathy at scale to market. First, we leveraged data from Google Search and other sources to better understand our consumers and to inform how we personalize our messaging. Next, we tapped into automated production tools like Director Mix to create custom assets by market, region, and brand. Finally, we optimized our media mix by incorporating video formats like bumpers, TrueView for Reach, and in-feed ads, leading to a 200% increase in our return on investment (ROI).

A deep understanding of consumers, courtesy of these and other tools, has now become the bedrock that allows us to create value for them. After adopting this more holistic view, we realized we had some blind spots, and we set out to understand and solve for these gaps with help from our strategic partners. With data-driven insights and automation tools in our back pocket, we were able to go to market and respond to consumer needs more quickly than ever before. Let’s take a look at how that has played out for two of our most popular brands.

Twist, lick, dunk: How Oreo U.S. achieved empathy at scale

With Oreo’s customers spanning nearly every demographic, our strategy for the beloved brand was to deepen relevance through fandom and personalization. We began by identifying audience segments whose interests aligned with our campaign idea by using YouTube affinity audiences. Then we connected Oreo to audience passion points. A campaign with Lady Gaga, for instance, featured a limited-edition line of cookies and a website to create musical “Oreograms,” while special-edition cookies for Pokemon fans encouraged consumers to “catch ‘em all.”

The result was a 2X increase in Oreo’s ROI on Google platforms and a jump in brand health metrics. Oreo is now gaining ground in meaning and relevance, signifying that customers report they love the brand and that the brand continues to be relevant to them. By applying data-driven insights and automation to these campaigns, we were able to deliver creative that truly resonates.

Cadbury finds the sweet spot

As a nearly 200-year old brand, Cadbury holds nostalgia for many in the U.K. To capture customers’ feelings for the confectioner, Cadbury’s marketing team sought to incorporate emotion and humor into its 2021 Easter campaign. They did it by focusing on their audience’s mindset at key moments and pairing campaign creative with data.

Using first-party data through automated tools has allowed us to understand a shifting market and respond with agility.

Prior to the holiday, Cadbury worked with Google to uncover timely consumer insights when the pandemic limited in-person celebrations. Responding to a desire to connect, they set up the “Worldwide Hide” on Google Maps. This virtual egg hunt allowed loved ones to send clues to their families about where a virtual egg was hidden and then to purchase chocolate eggs to send via Google Shopping.

The data Cadbury had access to allowed it to understand and respond to customer mindsets at a particular moment in time. During the campaign, Cadbury and Google “hid” 680,000 virtual eggs around the world, resulting in 1.8 million visits to the Cadbury site over a 10-day period and the sale of all its chocolate eggs before the Easter holiday. The campaign also resulted in a 2X increase in search interest for Cadbury relative to its competitors.

Harnessing data to adapt and unlock growth

It has never been easier to reach new customers, but doing so effectively requires dedication to audience insights and content personalization. Using first-party data through automated tools has allowed us to understand a shifting market and respond with agility. Consumer behavior may remain in flux, but our digital transformation means that Mondelēz International brands can easily identify the customers who offer the greatest value, reward them with relevant campaigns, and improve performance and overall growth.

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