Ubaid Zargar

Decoding Cadbury’s decades worth of advertising and marketing mojo

Mondelez India's Nitin Saini talks us through the brand’s signature ad tropes and marketing evolution.

For seven and a half decades, Indians have caressed their taste buds with the velvety allure of Mondelez, the septuagenarian parent of beloved confections such as Dairy Milk and Oreo. Like a fine wine, Mondelez has aged gracefully, and as it celebrated its platinum jubilee just months ago, it now stands on the cusp of a grand crescendo with the arrival of Diwali — a time when its opulent festive packs find new homes.

Yet, the journey to making festivals synonymous with one's brand is a saga of herculean effort. Mondelez India’s vice president of marketing, Nitin Saini, becomes our guide, unravelling the secrets of Mondelez's marketing magic. Amidst a portfolio of assortments, decades steeped in the elixir of communication consistency, and a pursuit of product innovation, Saini breaks down the brand’s journey so far.

Edited excerpts

75 years and counting. Where did it all start for Cadbury?

Our entry into India was marked with the introduction of Cadbury Dairy Milk in 1948 which was a defining moment for the nation, transforming the way India perceived chocolates, and establishing an incredible 75-year legacy in the country. For a country caught in the gustatory delight of diverse traditional sweets, chocolates were initially seen as a product for children only. However, this changed with the brand’s breakthrough campaign Asli Swad Zindagi Ka launched in 1994. 

The iconic ad featuring a young woman dancing on a cricket field with absolute abandon and enjoying a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk broke the brand’s ‘kids-only’ image and positioned it as a product for adult consumption. Since then, there has been no looking back. 

How did you sustain this communication strategy in your ads that followed ‘Asli Swad Zindagi Ka’?

As a brand focused on driving a forward-looking narrative while being deeply rooted in culture, we wanted to become a part of the celebratory DNA in the country. To drive this, we onboarded Bollywood Superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who, through a series of Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye ads in the 2000s, displayed the role chocolates can play in celebrating key milestones/festivities. It was also the debut of our communication targeting consumers in rural areas through the Miss Palampur campaign. 

Over the years, brand narratives continued to evolve, and today are aligned with consumers who value brands with a purpose. Case in example- Cadbury Dairy Milk overtook the generosity spirit with the narrative evolving from Kuchh Meetha Ho Jaaye to the current Kuch Accha Ho Jaaye, Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye, highlighting the need for extending generosity to oneself and to others. 

Can you expound on the period that led to Mondelez (especially Cadbury) moving from the use of traditional forms of storytelling (ads) to using technology like AI, ML and QR codes?

We’ve always been a future-looking and future-ready company, so for us, early adoption of digitisation was to optimise processes and to use technology to anticipate consumer behaviour and trends.

The fourth pillar that’s playing an important role in our strategy, but only as the facilitator of our purpose-led idea, is data and digital which continues to keep us ahead of the curve. For instance, we harnessed AI and machine learning to analyse consumer preferences while driving personalisation at scale. With our Iss Diwali Aap #KiseKhushKarenge? campaign in 2020, we leveraged artificial intelligence to create India’s first set of hyper-personalised ads. 

Our Grand Prix winner, the Shah Rukh Khan - My Ad used Artificial Intelligence (AI) to allow small businesses to create their custom ads with SRK endorsing their brand, through a dedicated website, and our recent Birthday Campaign by Cadbury Celebrations allowed consumers to make personalised birthday songs for their loved ones using AI. 

What is the relevance of awards like Cannes Lions in today's age for a brand?

These awards serve as a testament to our unwavering dedication to creativity and excellence. Winning such prestigious awards not only elevates our brand's reputation as an industry leader but also inspires our teams to continually innovate and push boundaries. It also provides a global platform to showcase our commitment to delivering impactful campaigns that resonate with consumers around the world. Ultimately, these awards reinforce Mondelez's commitment to delivering exceptional, effective, and memorable brand experiences that drive our business forward.

Can you comment on your long standing relationship with Ogilvy and Wavemaker, in the current landscape of project work?

Our longstanding relationship with Ogilvy and Wavemaker is an integral part of our approach to marketing in the current landscape of project work. Together, we've forged an invaluable partnership that centres on enhancing brand recall and driving product demand through impactful campaigns. 

Our collaboration with both agencies is founded on principles of trust, transparent communication, and adaptability. We work closely, discussing various strategies and solutions for each campaign, ensuring that we evolve and respond to changing dynamics in the market. Open dialogue is the cornerstone of our enduring agency-client partnerships, motivating both sides to excel.

Indian festivals play a significant role in your advertising campaigns. Could you tell us about the strategy behind incorporating cultural events into your marketing efforts?

We understand the deep cultural significance of festivals in the lives of Indian consumers. Our strategy revolves around connecting with consumers on a profound, emotional level by crafting narratives that resonate with the cultural and festive spirit.

For example, Cadbury Celebrations plays a crucial role during festivals and occasions as we reinforce the brand's reputation for being the perfect choice for gifting. In a country as diverse as India, we see a huge potential coupled with the need to address region-specific celebrations. This ultimately helps us increase market penetration, at the back of relevant brands from the house of Mondelez.

How crucial is regional and vernacular marketing for Cadbury?

Tailoring marketing strategies to align with regional tastes and values is key to success in this diverse and dynamic market. Over the past few years, we have had multiple successful campaigns in the South Market like #ArpoOreoOreo in Karnataka. Some recent ones include CDM Iniya Kondattam in Chennai which was conceived to bring Chennaiites closer to their beloved stars by getting them to sample and cherish a slice of their wonderful journey through their favourite food. 

This year to celebrate Onam, we launched a heart-warming campaign for our product Tang called Onam Tangy Tales which represented all the childhood cherished memories surrounding the festival through creative illustrations. Through this campaign, our aim was to add a splash of nostalgia with past experiences of Onam we’ve all had as children and add a little more relaxation and joy to the occasion. It is all about hitting the right cultural chord when we go local. 

Cadbury holds a mix of both influencers and celebrities under its promotional umbrella. How do you decide between the two for your campaigns?

We embrace influencer marketing as a powerful tool to connect with our audience. We carefully select influencers and brand ambassadors who align with our brand values and resonate with our target consumers. Through authentic partnerships, we create engaging content that highlights our products and encourages consumer trust. 

Celebrities continue to hold their unique sway over campaigns, particularly during specific stages of a brand's lifecycle. Their association can bring a high level of visibility and credibility to our products. Our strategy involves a dynamic mix of influencers and celebrities, each contributing their distinct strengths to our campaigns. The choice between them depends on the campaign's objectives and the specific context in which we aim to connect with our consumers.

What does the future look like for Cadbury from the advertising and marketing POV?

As we look to the future, Mondelez’s advertising and marketing strategies will remain focused on innovation, personalisation, and building emotional connections. We will continue to embrace digital channels to engage with our tech-savvy audience while also recognising the enduring value of traditional mediums to reach a wider demographic. Expect more exciting campaigns, all while staying true to our commitment to being part of every consumer’s shared moment of happiness.

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