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How Cadbury Dairy Milk's generosity campaign transformed a chocolate bar into a creative catalyst

Sukesh Nayak, CCO at Ogilvy, highlighted how Cadbury Dairy Milk's generosity campaign provided a powerful platform for individuals, instilling clarity, courage, and a sense of purpose

Sukesh Nayak, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy, emphasised the impact of generosity on creative minds during a session at Cannes Lions 2023. He highlighted how Cadbury Dairy Milk's generosity campaign provided a powerful platform for creative individuals, instilling clarity, courage, and a sense of purpose.

He highlighted that with the ability to drive change and inspire love and recognition, the campaign's success demonstrated the remarkable potential of a simple chocolate bar.

Nayak, Mie-Leng Wong, SVP Global Brands, Mondelez, and Darren Bailes, Global Chief Creative Officer, VCCP, highlighted how the concept of 'purpose' has split the marketing world. They also spoke about Cadbury’s goal to bring more generosity to the world and how it isn’t purpose for purpose’s sake rather it is the purpose that drives performance.

The discussion revolved around Cadbury Dairy Milk’s generosity campaign that has attracted 40 million new customers to the brand and added $1.4 billion retail sales value to the business, whilst winning countless creative and effectiveness awards.

Wong said, “When the Gorilla campaign was launched, it was very successful. It created a lot of currency, it modernised the brand and it grew sales by 5% in the months when it was launched but success was short-lived. Competitors were trying to ape us with bright, loud, energetic, creative work, which made it more difficult for us to stand out in the category. By 2017, our brand equity was eroding, sales were declining very steeply in our developed markets, and even in emerging markets, our sales growth was decelerating."

"Cadbury Dairy Milk became very reliant on innovation to boost revenue, so it was a very serious situation. When we went to consumers, we learned through research that our brand positioning of joy was actually alienating our consumers. People feel inherently close to Cadbury. This is a brand that people trust and love since childhood. This bombastic fantasy world of joy was at odds with that. So, in order to reconnect with our consumers we actually had to first and foremost reconnect with who we were as a brand," she added. 

Bailes said that this world of joy that Cadbury was at the time, it just didn't really make him anything. He recalled that there was a Cadbury from his childhood which made him feel kind of warm. However, the Cadbury joy work just didn't make him feel any of that. 

“So, we had to go on a journey to find out how we could feel that way again. So we needed to go back in time in order to go forward. Before Cadbury made chocolates they used to make hot chocolate and sold it from a tea shop in Bull Street in Birmingham. They sold it for a good reason as back then the UK was gripped in a gin epidemic. So, they were trying to get people to be less drunk and sober them up and that was kind of the start of the journey. When Cadbury started making chocolates, John Cadbury, who was the founder, needed to build a factory and he didn't build a factory in the heart of Birmingham, rather he built a factory that had cricket pitches, ponds, homes for the workers and hospitals,” Bailes said. 

“In every bar of Cadbury chocolate, there is a glass and a half of milk. John Cadbury and George Cadbury went a little bit further to make sure that the product was really good. They were being generous and this felt like the place that we needed to be. We didn't want to be talking about our own generosity, rather we wanted to point the camera at the world where we find generous moments and where human beings are being kind,” he added. 

Furthermore, he went on to say that at that point of time everything was so loud, colourful and plasticised and there was no loyalty in the market. Nobody loved any of those brands that were there in the market at that point of time. 

“So, we made a plan that if everyone was loud like that, we would be quiet. If everyone was using special effects, we would be in camera being honest and simple. If everyone was using crazy loud techno music, we would use noise. We would not tell people how to feel in our work, we would just let them feel it through simple filmic technique. So that's what we did. I told the creative teams that the only way that we can stand out is to do the small things. We will be tiny in what we write like tiny stories of generosity and kind moments. That is when the Mum’s Birthday campaign was rolled out,” Bailes said. 

Wong said that going small requires skill and it is a very fine line to balance. 

“In the end you also need to see it through and make sure that you take the first step. So, what we do in every single market is that we find a culture where generosity is missing and where we can contribute and inspire small acts of generosity but with big emotional impact and significance and we started this in the UK with loneliness,” she added. 

Bailes stated, “We also made another spot called Fence, which featured an old man, who was alone, living next door to a busy household full of children. That gave us the inspiration when we were looking to activate the generosity platform. We delved into the subject and we found out some awful facts. Not only was there a Minister for Loneliness in the UK but there were 250,000 elderly people who went a whole week without speaking to a single person. So, we wanted to help and encourage the UK to get involved and talk to these old people.”

One of the key moments of this campaign was that people were encouraged to donate their words to these people who were not talking to anyone, Bailes said. 

“We took all the words off from one of the most iconic and well-known packaging that sits on every shelf in every store across the country. It was completely radical. We took the words off millions of bars to highlight the fact that we wanted everyone to donate their words to help this cause,” he added.

Wong said that adopting generosity in the lead market in the UK has transformed their business. ‘There is a glass and a half in everyone’ has rebuilt the brand law for Cadbury Dairy Milk.

“We have inspired generosity amongst millions of Britons and sales grew back double digits every single year since we launched the campaign. Cadbury is the most loved brand in the UK again, back to where it belongs. So, generosity is a global platform because it taps into a human truth. It transcends borders because it lives in each and every one of us,” she added. 

Speaking about how this move clicked in India as well, Nayak said, "We were already on a journey of helping Indians who love sweets and Cadbury has been on a journey to help people to convert Cadbury as a choice of dessert. The line that we had 'Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye' loosely translates to let something sweet happen. So, that's where we started from when we came onto this platform. The generosity platform allowed us to build on compassion and humanity. The journey for us began with Cadbury with the new Google platform."

Furthermore, he highlighted how a campaign with actor Shah Rukh Khan for Cadbury helped solve a big human problem. 

"Last year we thought that every brand has a brand ambassador so why can't we have a brand ambassador that can be the brand ambassador for all the small shops in India who can't afford to advertise?  This is just when COVID was getting over and there were small sellers who could not do anything. We approached Shah Rukh Khan and he was generous enough to become a part of the campaign,” Nayak said. 

"The campaign is about using technology and geolocation but at the end of the day it solves a human problem. It basically made Shah Rukh Khan the face of every single small shop in India. To be precise, 2,50,000 small shop owners probably will have this campaign with them for the rest of their lives. So, it's one campaign that created 2,50,000 campaigns,” he added. 

Speaking about another campaign done during one of the IPL seasons, Nayak said, "During IPL, every brand comes and spends gazillions and gazillions of dollars trying to make an impact. When we were thinking of what we should do during one of the seasons of IPL, we discovered that while there are teams which get sponsored by the brands there is one team which doesn't get any sponsorship and that is the team of ground staff."

"We went and sponsored them and we made them stay in the same hotel, have them their own nutritionist and diet plan. We made sure they have everything that a cricket team gets when the game is on. Moreover, we got the best designer in the country to create a uniform for them so that they feel good. It wasn't a charity," he added.

Nayak said that generosity is great because it gives clarity to creative people. It gives them a great platform to bounce off. It provides them courage to be brave because they know exactly what they are trying to do. 

“For us in India, I think it's awesome that we are part of this narrative that we really want to own which is about helping bring about a change which is very important to us and that comes from a global platform that we are working with. Who would have thought a chocolate bar could do so much and bring about so much change and love and recognition? So, we are very happy with what we are doing and I hope we continue to do the same thing going forward,” he added.

Wongs said that there is a lot of chatter at Cannes this year that as a business and creative community, everybody needs to stop being distracted by doing good and get back to doing good business. 

“We believe that these two are not at all the purposes. The generosity purpose was designed to drive creativity and to boost brand equity but most importantly it has been designed to drive business results. Generosity has delivered more than a billion in net revenue to Mondelez. We have recruited more than 40 million people back into the Cadbury franchise and Kantar has announced this week that for the first time ever Cadbury is one of the top 20 most valuable food and beverages brands in its Brand Z study,” Wongs said. 

“It is the amazing work that we do with our partners on Cadbury that has contributed Mondelez to moving from the 7th position of best marketing company in the world to the 3rd position right after ABI and McDonalds. So, a purpose for purpose's sake is definitely a bad idea but if it is grounded in a strong consumer insight, based on a product truth, connected to a long-term commitment and a business growth strategy, it can create that shared value for the consumers, for societies, for the environment and for the business. So, we believe that generosity as a platform is not limiting rather it's actually liberating. It gives direction to everything we do,” she added. 


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