‘Humaning’ – No I Don’t Know What It Means

I honestly don’t like writing blogs about stuff that annoys me. My approach in life is to focus on the positives and celebrate them, rather than grumble about the negatives.

But… but… but… sometimes stuff is just so shit that you have to put that philosophical approach to one side and just let rip.

So here goes.

Mondelēz: What Have You Done?

Mondelēz is the company that owns Cadbury’s and sells Oreo and Ritz Crackers.

It’s a monster of a company and, I’d guess, you’ve eaten something they own, no matter where you are in the world.

But being big doesn’t save it from being stupid.

Even the world’s mightiest companies can suffer from delusion. And the ‘humaning’ debacle is a fine example of that delusion.

Picture the scene*:

New marketing hotshot wants to make an impact. Sat in a cosy boardroom somewhere (before lockdown) the phrase “let’s start using purpose a bit more in our communications” was uttered.

Then lockdown happens and the next nine months are a blur of Zoom calls, Slack chats, Teams workshops and finally, marketing hotshot gets to unveil their work to the world.

The upshot of this nine month cycle of navel gazing?

Humaning.

They even made a video to go with it. Before watching, can I just remind you this is not an April Fools.

Trial By Social Media

I think the easiest way to explain my annoyance at this is to provide a bit more context to a series of angry tweets I sent on Friday 13th November 2020.

My teeth aren’t itching because of overdosing on Oreo cookies or Cadbury’s chocolate, despite my best efforts. It’s the utter drivel on the website that caused that.

I’m not sure we could have poked their eyes out at birth, but trust me when I say I’m still looking in to it.

But I must reiterate the last point on the first tweet. The grown ups in most companies (The Board) often view marketing teams as a pretty add on. A nice to have.

I’ve very little experience in companies the size of Mondelēz, but from my experience in medium sized companies, this sort of shit is what they think marketing does.

Pointless exercises that cost money with no visible benefit. And new, entirely unrequired, made up words.

I mean, even if you accept their thinking (which I don’t, but I’ll explain later) why do you need to make up a word? Especially a really ugly one like HUMANING.

Please, please, please… stop.

Perhaps its a desire to find a word that no one else “owns” and has no #tags associated with it on social media. If that is the case, the narrow view looks very daft from a wider perspective.

The whole launch page looks like its been written by a random content generator.

And not one of the new AI driven things.

Just a computerised version of a toddler mashing the buttons on your phone for half an hour.

Now we’re in to the crux of the matter.

This is where the whole thing falls down for me. What the hell were you doing with your marketing for the last number of years if it wasn’t “consumer-centric”?

You were wasting time and money is what you were doing.

The key job of a marketing team or person is to remember the market (hint: it’s the first fucking bit of the word MARKETing).

Think of the customer (or consumer, we’ll discuss that another day) and bring them into the room. They should be the sun that everything else orbits around.

I’m astounded that this wasn’t the core of everything they do at Mondelēz.

And finally…

The whole searching for connections and human stories rubbish is just that: rubbish.

Using your purpose in marketing is a brilliant thing to do and can be hugely powerful.

I’m a big fan of authentic, natural storytelling that comes from the core of a brand. But this is just woeful.

It smacks of reverse engineering – making something up to fit the stated goal, rather than letting it grow organically from the brands.

Remember, this is the company that owns Cadbury’s.

If you don’t know the backstory, read it here. But, in a nutshell, the Cadbury family were one the great Victorian philanthropists.

They built a village for the staff to live in, which you can visit today and people still live there. 140 years after it was built, it was voted the one of the nicest places to live in the country.

Cadbury’s treated staff like humans not machines in a time when this was a radical philosophy and were generally acknowledged to be good eggs, thanks to investing in stuff like education, housing and people.

In short: THEY’VE GOT THE PERFECT FUCKING BACKSTORY FOR PURPOSE MARKETING THAT HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL FOR BEAUTIFUL STORY TELLING THAT EVEN AN IDIOT LIKE ME COULD FILL A THOUSAND YEARS WITH IT.

And even with that, Mondelēz give us humaning.

I give up.

I’ll leave it to Claire McHugh to neatly capture the entire conversation from the Mondelez marketing meeting*

Anyway, if you want brand purpose doing properly, my contact details are on this page.

No pointless guff or spouting of bland words from the business dictionary, just an honest look at what your company stands for and how we can use that in marketing.

It’s a really humaninger (or should that be humaneer?) approach to brand purpose.

*I have no actual insight into if this was a real conversation. But you just know I’m right.

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