Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Sep 9, 2013

Q&A: Mondeléz's Cindy Chen on Chinese memes, snacking needs and why Oreos are golden in China

SHANGHAI - Cindy Chen (pictured), head of biscuits, media and consumer engagement at Mondeléz China, talks to Campaign Asia-Pacific about her active involvement in the new branding for the company.

Cindy Chen
Cindy Chen

What's the story about your relocation and about Kraft/Mondeléz?

I've moved back to Shanghai since March 2013. I was the marketing director for Oreo at Kraft Foods in the United States, before legal procedures were completed for renaming Kraft to Mondeléz in July 2013.

Last October, Kraft Foods was divided into two independently-listed companies, with the North American grocery business continuing under the name of Kraft and the global snacks division under the name of Mondeléz International.

Mondeléz's global net revenue was US$35 billion last year, with explosive business in China hitting US$1 billion. Within the BRIC markets, the most important one is China.

One of the key reasons for my return to the mainland is no matter how successful I get in the US, I will always be an 'outsider' there. The second is timing. If I moved back five years ago, the impact on business results due to marketing capabilities was almost non-existent then.

Any insights into the snacking category after five months in China?

For the snacks category in the US, snacking needs are either as 'fuel' for hunger or 'treats' for indulgence. But when I came to China, I found the majority of snacking triggers here to be fuel food for pick-me-ups: regardless of sweet or savoury snacks. The thought process of consumers gravitates more towards, "I'm a little hungry, I feel like eating something. What should I eat? Biscuits? Chocolates?" instead of "I had a long and stressful day. What should I reward myself with?"

Also, Chinese prefer their snacks to be more refined, delicate and cute, so we introduced smaller-size packages of Oreo cookies with a different formula. More so in Asia than the rest of the world, it's about the trend of premiumisation. It ties back to the 'face value' (面子) in Chinese culture.

Unlike the black-and-white Oreo that everyone is familiar with, in May 2013, we launched Golden Oreo nationally in China, with chocolate and strawberry-flavoured fillings sandwiched between golden-coloured cookies.

You drove double-digit business results throughout Oreo's 100th birthday year in the US. What are your marketing plans for China?

Premiumisation is not just about being expensive, but about the quality of the product. It is extremely important in China, with a uniquely-China term relating to 'high-end Western chic' (高端洋气) playing a big role in marketing. These terms are specific to China, and hard to explain or translate to foreigners (老外). Premiumisation will be manifested in our packaging, especially during the numerous gifting occasions here. That is at the product level.

The second level I'm really passionate about is excellence at the marketing level. It's probably easy to say and difficult to do. It's about being fearless, changing mindsets, taking risks, and doing something nobody has done before. I'm very proud of the work my team has done in the United States—Oreo's 'Daily Twist' campaignthat won nine awards at the Cannes Lions this year. I want to repeat that in China, and help China become the powerhouse for creativity and marketing excellence. That is another key reason why I came back.

China's uniform general education teaches that there is one way to being the best, but in reality diversity in thinking gets you more innovation and better marketing results, together with our local agencies DraftFCB, Saatchi & Saatchi and Carat. I expect them to "talk to one another" because our overall compensation model hinges on the performance of fellow agencies and how they help one another to bring a marketing idea to life.

There may be many aspects of China that are different from the US, but at the end of the day, human nature—the cravings for love, for scarcity, exclusivity—is the same everywhere. I can't reveal too much of our next campaign, but I truly believe in using 'retail-tainment' to fulfill these cravings and communicate our brand message.

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