Why Oreo rewired its narrative from a playful to a purpose-driven one

Topics Mondelez | Mondelez India | ITC

The new campaign focuses on responsible parenting within the overall global brand position of ‘staying playful’
For years, Oreo, the biscuit brand with a catchy tagline and a bag full of extensions has positioned itself around personal indulgence. Its tagline, ‘Twist, lick and dunk’  has helped its owner, the confectionary, food and beverage multinational Mondelez, pitch the brand as a playful break from routine and the ritual it prescribes has become a powerful mnemonic for Oreo’s recall. But now the company is rewiring the memory grid, with a narrative that takes play more seriously and paints it as a parenting responsibility, asking parents to spend more time with their children.

In the nine years since its India debut, Oreo has snapped up a large slice of the market. Its share stands at 8.5 per cent in cream cookies, a competitive segment that includes rivals such as ITC and Britannia. The market for Oreo in India is already the third largest after the US and China and is expected to grow even more, say experts, as Indians, especially in urban areas, develop a taste for better products and graduate to consuming creams and cookies versus plain biscuits.

Why then is Mondelez tweaking the brand’s positioning, stirring in purpose and societal good into dough? Experts believe that the reasons must have been extremely compelling for the shift. Sudhanshu Nagpal, director, Marketing (Biscuits), Mondelez India, says that the company wanted to drive purpose into its marketing, something it has been doing for a few years now globally with Oreo.

‘Stay Playful’, he says is Oreo’s global brand proposition that aims to spark “playful” moments with family and friends. The Indian leg, he says, has been titled ‘Disconnect to Connect’, where a busy father is gently schooled by his daughter into spending time with her and cajoled into stepping away from his gadgets, emails and phone calls.

“The campaign puts forth the message of disconnecting from the screen world and spending quality time in the real world with your family,” Nagpal says. Increasingly this is a message several brands have sought to adopt, a recent advertisement by mobile handset brand Vivo used a similar narrative where the child brings home the need for calling a time-out on digital devices to spend quality time with the family.

Robby Mathew, chief creative officer, FCB Interface, which conceptualised and executed the campaign that shows a girl sending her father an Oreo via mail, says, “The innocence of the little girl sending an Oreo by email lent itself to a cute story. This campaign builds on the ‘Stay Playful’ global platform.”

Mondelez isn’t the only marketer that is driving purpose into its brands. From Hindustan Unilever to Proctor & Gamble, Nestle, ITC, Dabur, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, all consumer goods companies today are driving purpose into their advertising and marketing. A global survey by Accenture Strategy of nearly 30,000 consumers in 2018 found that 62 per cent of customers want companies to take a stand on current and broadly relevant issues like sustainability, transparency or fair employment practices. The closer a company’s purpose aligns to their own beliefs, the better.

In the Indian context, this has meant not only advertising that drives purpose, but also on-ground initiatives that help address real problems, issues and mindsets. It also helps, say experts, that companies in India have been mandated to spend two per cent of their three-year average annual profit on corporate social responsibility (CSR). According to a recent report by KPMG, more companies today comply with CSR norms, with 76 per cent firms having spent two per cent or more of their profits on such initiatives in the past year. The report that covered 100 companies also revealed a 150 per cent rise in the number of firms that have committed to carry forward their unspent amount into CSR activities. And a 325 per cent increase in the number of companies that have disclosed details of their CSR initiatives in their annual reports.

For Mondelez, the ‘Disconnect to Connect’ campaign will not be restricted to a few commercials alone. Instead, the company proposes to come up with a 360-degree exercise by March including extensive digital, outdoor and on-ground initiatives to drive home the message. Nagpal did not divulge what the digital campaign would entail, merely saying that it will take Oreo’s playful proposition to the next level.

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