CMO Recap: Unilever, Mondelez, and Coca-Cola on Brand Pivots to Stay Relevant Amidst Uncertainty | The Garage Group

CMO Recap: Unilever, Mondelez, and Coca-Cola on Brand Pivots to Stay Relevant Amidst Uncertainty

“What we’d planned at the beginning of this campaign was something that relied on a physical event, whether it was a scavenger hunt that was to take place in person, or hiding autographed packs of Lady Gaga cookies in out-of-aisle places in stores… And then realizing that the pandemic had gotten to a place where it would be irresponsible to do something like that, we knew we needed to pivot. That’s when we decided to take the scavenger hunt online to Twitter. It ended up being more successful than we could have ever imagined.-Lauren Flanigan, OREO at Mondelēz

On March 25th, Jason Hauer, Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer here at The Garage Group joined battle-tested leaders from Unilever, Mondelēz, and Coca-Cola to hear how they are pivoting to keep their brands relevant amidst uncertainty. They shared everything from launching a fully digital campaign for OREO, to leading the Food & Beverage industry in courageously taking a stand on social issues, to remaining uncompromising in brand values while launching into an adjacent category:

Check out these Key Highlights:

OREO & Lady Gaga Limited Edition Cookies: Launching An Iconic Campaign Amidst Uncertainty

“It was something that evolved from a great place of core shared values. We both want the world to be more playful, more kind, more inclusive, more empathetic. And that’s the theme of each of our sort of brands, so at the core, there is a lot of similarity. 


Accelerating into Adjacent Categories with Dove Hand Sanitizer

“We were able to accelerate by about four months, but the critical piece about this project that we wanted to make sure we never compromised was the formulation. There were plenty of times when people asked if we could scrap the differentiated formula that was going to deliver the superior moisturization benefit to get this out the door sooner and just slap the Dove brand on top of it and call it a great hand sanitizer. But at the very beginning we sat down and we said, ‘What are we willing to compromise on? And what are we not?’” 


Coca-Cola’s ‘Summer of Pivots’

“I call last year, particularly the last summer, the ‘summer of pivots for Coca-Cola.’  Not only did we have to contend with COVID, and the changes in our product packaging based on consumer behaviors and where we were guiding those products and packages to, but then the world really changed for us around Black Lives Matter. It allowed us to lean in with courage in a way that I don’t think many Fortune 50 companies have done in the past, because there’s always this concern that you might upset investors by taking a stand on something that’ll impact shareholder price or you might upset retailers because we took a stand on something.”


Finding New Ways In with Gum & Mental Health 

“How do you find alternate ways to be able to get people back interested in the category? That actually landed us in a place where we pivoted the positioning of the brand entirely. Before, there had been a couple of different positionings the brand had been in, and the most recent was all about flavor and having gum as a distraction, as well as some freshening benefits…

..It’s actually a really psychological truth in that you do tend to chew or clench your jaw when you’re stressed. There’s something that happens in the mouth when you are stressed out. So thinking about that insight, how do you then help that to become a benefit? That’s a place we pivoted into as a brand and it’s relatively new.” 


Solving for Permissible Indulgence With 7/11 & Vitamin Water Zero

“In terms of innovation, and I think we’ve all experienced this in all of our brands: consumer need is first. I think that is what I would tell the audience today is that no matter what you do, really try to understand from a brand agnostic point of view, what is the job that you’re trying to do for your consumer? What is that tension that you’re trying to solve for them? How do you make life easier for them and understand what are they hiring and what are they firing to solve for that job? Because in there will be white space that one of your brands, a new approach, or an innovation that you have in your toolbox could solve for.”


Best Practices for Moving Into New Categories with Dove

“I think if the equity doesn’t match in what consumers are expecting, and also the benefits that the brand can bring and is known for it, then it’s not always the right fit. When COVID started and the hand sanitizer was all the rage, there were brands that wanted to jump into this project and get on the bandwagon of hand hygiene, and we had to turn them away and say, “It doesn’t make sense for, for this brand to go here because you don’t have an equity in care, you don’t have an equity in moisturization, and nobody needs just another hand sanitizer. So I think you have to be really choiceful about which brands are right for those opportunities. And also recognize when your brand isn’t right to go into another category.”

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