How Mondelez fosters innovation in tough times

Eliza Esquivel tells Future Flash how her company fights against the great gum collapse

Eliza Esquivel tells Future Flash how it’s fighting against the great gum collapse

If innovation is the buzzword among brands and their agencies, then actually knowing how to pull it off internally is their Achilles heel. Most marketers and ad agencies know that innovation is imperative, but a lack of organizational readiness all too often proves to be a fatal stumbling block.

Eliza Esquivel

Mondelez‘ vice-president of global brand strategy, Eliza Esquivel, provided her company’s framework for pushing innovative ideas through to attendees at the ICA’s Future Flash event on Wednesday. She posed the following question to a room of top-level creative leaders: how do you get to great creative in an uncertain marketplace?

The key, said Esquivel, is to embrace moments of trouble and turn them into opportunities for experimentation.

To illustrate this point, Esquivel shared how Mondelez recently faced a very serious issue. After breaking off from Kraft Foods in 2012 and becoming a standalone company, Mondelez found that a key aspect of its business – the gum market – was in trouble.

“When Mondelez was born a year and half ago, we said to the NASDAQ that our big bet was the gum category,” said Esquivel from the Future Flash stage. “Then, as soon as it left our lips, the category tanked.”

Many of the problems were significant, such as SKU proliferation, but addressing such a problem could take years. So the challenge the company gave to itself was to drive category growth in the short term with communications.

The result was “Project Sprout,” a four-pronged campaign wherein four specifically selected agencies were brought on to create standout campaigns for four distinct markets with the goal of creating brand lift through communications solutions.

The four projects couldn’t be more different. “Look. Fresh,” The Barbarian Group’s effort, was a campaign positioning gum as an essential beauty product. With “The Chew Life,” agency Johannes Leonardo created a film and social-based lifestyle film to make gum cool again.

With “Orally Advanced,” Vice Media enlisted SNL actress Kate McKinnon to produce a series of saucy instructional videos. And with “Focus,” Japanese agency Party created a line of clothing made of radio shielding fabric to illustrate how gum can be a tool for total focus.

While the results of these efforts remain to be seen – data will be available in June – Esquivel said there have already been significant takeaways in terms of being fearless in the face of a business crisis. She says: avoid being risk averse when there’s danger as “there’s noting like needing to solve a business problem to get your creative juices flowing. It’s a really good time to explore new opportunities.

“Small teams are good. So are tight deadlines because you can get to great creative work a lot more quickly than you think.” And, she says, measure the dollar signs. “Hold yourself accountable to actual growth. Data is taking over our world in a really frightening way. We’re measuring the wrong things. We get happy about CTR but at the end of the day we have to sell stuff.”

Said Esquivel: “In order to be fearless you need to take risks, try stuff, make stuff. Clients need to learn it, and agencies and clients need to be comfortable doing stuff together.”

Check back with MarketingMag.ca for more from the ICA’s Future Flash

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