Q&A: Cadbury 2012 boss Norman Brodie

Marketing Week speaks to Cadbury’s London 2012 general manager Norman Brodie about how its activity as a Olympic sponsor has given its marketers a legacy of marketing assets to be used across the Cadbury portfolio well beyond 2012.

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Marketing Week (MW): What elements of your London 2012 activity will you extend to other campaigns once the Olympics and Paralympic Games are over?

Norman Brodie (NB): When we signed the sponsorship for London 2012 we decided that we wanted to use this as a catalyst for change across the business particularly with regards to how we approached digital marketing. We were the first to use [mobile app] Shazam in the UK to extend TV commercials. We had a world first use of on-pack virtual reality, which required no packaging changes. London 2012 has given us a legacy of marketing assets, with huge scale, to be used across the Cadbury portfolio in years to come.

Another thing we set out to change was the paradigm for our brand interactions. Before we came up with the Olympic strategy we would have had marketing activity spike at three or four points throughout the year across our different brands. Now we’ve adopted an ‘always on’ approach and pretty much all our brands now have a constant dialogue with consumers.

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MW: Throughout Cadbury’s Olympic marketing there has been a strong experiential and PR element. Will this continue with other campaigns such as Joyville?

NB: PR has been a strong element in what we’ve done and played a key role in us reaching around seven and a half million fans online. Over the last two years we’ve changed how we’ve approached events and really got out there to play up our brand experience and use of digital technology. A great example is our Cadbury House at Hyde Park. Since it launched two weeks ago we’ve had 12,000 visitors and 75 per cent of them have used our new RFID technology to upload content online.

MW: How does Cadbury plan on keeping all the fans it has recruited since the start of Spots v Stripes in 2010 engaged?

NB: One of the really innovative things to come out of what we’ve done around the Olympics is how we as a brand make more of gameplay. Once you’ve started a dialogue with a consumer on Facebook or Twitter it gets to a stage where you want to take it to the next level. We’ve done that through gaming. We’ve been doing this throughout our campaign and I think there’s an opportunity in gameplay to move from a dialogue relationship with a consumer to nurturing brand advocates and having fun with them. Being always on and getting to a richer communications level through gameplay are probably the two most transformative things about our sponsorship of the Games.

MW: How does this approach extend to future campaigns under the Cadbury brand?

NB: All the brand plans for next year are being drawn up now. All those plans have got this stuff we’ve been discussing embedded in them. There’s obviously no Olympic games in 2013 but what we’re planning to do is create events and digital elements that really keep this legacy going.

MW: In the past the brand has spoken about having a social first strategy and you’ve been one of the more active sponsors throughout the Games. How does Google+, one of your newer digital platforms fit into this mix, considering the similarities it bares to Facebook?

NB: We have also used London 2012 as the test bed for successfully launching creative marketing technology that is new not only to Kraft Foods, but to the world. Cadbury is the UK’s biggest brand on Facebook and the world’s biggest brand on Google+. I guess it is a bit like Facebook, which there lots of things right with but there are also lots of things people don’t like about it. With Google+ the service’s offering is a little bit less worrying in some senses and I think their could be quite a big migration to alternative platforms.

There’s a million social platforms but there aren’t a million people who could create the next one. We probably all think Facebook is going to last forever but it probably won’t and there will be something that will take its place.

MW: You first launched Cadbury Spots v Stripes in 2010 and the campaign has gone on to become the brand’s biggest ever sustained marketing campaign. What are the challenges of keeping someone interested in a platform over such a long period?

NB: I’m not sure how many brands have run a campaign for two and bit years. I’m proud that we’ve been successful in doing it. We always had it in chapters. The first bit was about getting people to play games. The second bit was about galvanising the nation and the third bit was about celebration. We had to make sure that we did this well. It was frustrating for us to begin with because towards the end of the first phase people were saying if that’s all they have then its not very good.

But what they didn’t know was what was to come and to be honest neither did we. The key thing is you have to be adaptable and flexible. You need to have a strategy that at a high level will never change, while staying flexible enough so that you can change and divert resources quickly.

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MW: You mentioned that the campaign has had its critics in some quarters. What do you say to those people who question the effectiveness of the strategy?

NB: What we were trying to do nobody has ever done before. If you’re first it’s really hard and you have to be pretty brave because you’re going to take criticism as well as praise. We’ve probably had it in equal measure, it’s just that criticism hurts more. When you consider we’ve had 22 million people take part in our London 2012 activity, that’s a third of the country’s population involved in Spots v Stripes.

When you consider that we’ve had 550 events around the country and we’ve had a further 2200 in our community program, new products we’ve launched like our Challenge and Race bars combined with the fact that we’ve transformed our digital capability over two and half years I think you’d have to be a super cynic to say that wasn’t impressive.

MW: Cabury ahs been criticised for having a link to sport through the Olympics, are there plans to continue this association through other sports sponsorships?

NB: We don’t have an immediate plan right now and we haven’t even done the Paralympic Games yet. I’ve got to say there’s a pretty good feeling and what we’ll do is take stock afterwards. We’re pretty pleased with what we’ve done so far.

MW: Being involved in the community and looking at the social impact of your marketing has played a massive role throughout Cadbury’s London 2012 campaign. How will you look to continue this with campaigns from 2013 onwards?

NB: Community is the unsung bit of our sponsorship because brand authenticity is often built on things that people find out, not what brands talk about. In terms of the community programme, which runs all the way until the end of the year, we’re looking at how we transition that in an environment where there isn’t an Olympic Games. We’re working with Groundwork and our corporate affairs team to come up with ideas. We’ve got so much value out of it and its helped focus our organisation around it.

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