Q&A Matthew Williams – Mondelez’s UK chief marketer

Mondelez’s UK chief marketer discusses reconciling Cadbury’s rich heritage with using new tech channels, and the challenges facing today’s marketers.

Matthew Williams
Matthew receiving his MW Engage award from Claudia Winkleman

Marketing Week: Why did you go into marketing and what did you learn at your first company L’Oréal?

Matthew Williams (MW): I have always been a curious person and wonder why people do what they do. I first had the idea of doing marketing when I was stacking shelves in a supermarket and wondered why people bought what they did.

L’Oréal was a great opportunity to learn about how to do marketing and how to work with agencies – it was a fast-paced environment with the opportunity to work from concept to being in-store. You could get from the concept idea to being a product in Boots within five months.


Mondelez is placing great importance on a real-time marketing strategy – what is your definition of that and how will it evolve?

MW: For us, real-time marketing is as simple as talking to the target audience about things that are relevant to them when those things are most relevant, for example Cadbury’s activity at the Brit Awards this year. Everyone knew the Brit Awards were happening so it was a case of, how do we talk to customers in that moment? 

Over time there will be more communications messages and I do not see that stopping. But you have to make something that can pay back to your brand in the long term. It’s easy to get into a conversation with people but it is difficult to leave them with a different or more positive attitude to your brand afterwards.


Mondelez is also focusing on ‘storytelling at scale’. What opportunities does this present?

MW: There is different media we can spend money on to get our message out to more people but we do have to get the right balance so we are sending out the right number of communications. If a brand keeps trying to connect with you in a way that is not relevant, it’s irritating. 

With the Brits we took the message out of social media to out-of-home and some of the major London stations that evening. I think that’s the future: people see social media in a limited mindset when actually there are opportunities all around.

We try to do a mix of things based on a calendar of events as well as opportunistically. It’s about identifying those opportunities that fit with the brand. Next year we already know 40 to 50 per cent of the events we will try to focus on, and the rest we will choose nearer the time.


MW: It’s difficult but we have been able to do it by looking at measurements of online conversations and buzz. We have been able to link positive buzz to sales. We cannot link sales on a particular date with a post or activity on that day but on a macro-level we do know these things do pay back.


How does Cadbury plan to work with proximity marketing tools such as beacons?

MW: We are a company where 80 per cent of purchase decisions are made in the last three seconds [before the till], so RFID (radio frequency identification) and beacons are very important to us, and we are working with a number of retail partners. Historically, we have done vouchers and coupons that are available on mobile in certain stores. These projects have been successful but expensive to do. This technology does influence shopper behaviour – chocolate is an impulse category and does affect what people do in-store. Finding a more effective and efficient way of doing it is the challenge.


What is your take on the role of traditional media channels?

MW: I see things in patterns and there is an evolution of things I first saw 10 years ago – the challenge of how to continue to reach people cost-effectively. For every TV post and newspaper ad, there are fewer people seeing it than a decade ago. In FMCG, when we need to reach a lot of people we need to redouble our efforts to cut through the clutter. There’s never been as much clutter as there is today and there will be more in future.

But I think there is always a need for contacting people on a mass scale. We still use TV and outdoor in the UK because they still reach the most people, and quickly.




How have Cadbury’s marketers managed to get board backing for investment in new tech channels?

MW: The business is very interested to learn how to optimise effectiveness and for Cadbury we have analytics going back 10 years. We are always trying new things and we would be foolish not to look at their effect. We have a good understanding of what works historically and we are always trying with each campaign to do something different. We do not have ‘cookie cutter’ campaigns.


What are the challenges and opportunities of having a rich heritage like Cadbury’s?

MW: We have to stay consistent with our heritage. It is important to bring to life the joy that Cadbury chocolate brings. That’s the bit that makes the message relevant and interesting to people.

We have had to do braver and bolder things in the past few years – although we need brand ‘rules’, we cannot afford always to follow them rigidly. The opportunities with Cadbury are endless – it’s a great brand to work with because people are always keen to work with you.


How do you create the right environment for innovation to flourish?

MW: We know great things happen when you bring different combinations of people together but for that to happen you need a mentality of learning through doing. 

Marketing is never perfect because it is always evolving and the richness is in learning that. You do have to get the balance right between things you know will work and things you can take a gamble on.


How does Mondelez ensure there is no friction between global and local teams?

MW: My big learning from working at a global company is do not forget to focus on the things you have in common. Marketing people have more in common than differences. At Cadbury what we see in common in our markets is that we bring joy in the form of delicious chocolate. We might have different TV executions in different markets but we don’t feel there are too many challenges because of that brand-defining thread that runs through them all. 

Our mission ‘to free your joy’ is relevant whether you are in Mumbai, Milan or Manchester. Any discussions we have over tensions between global and local will be about how we best execute a campaigns.


What kind of skills and talents do you look for when recruiting?

MW: When I was first hired we were looking for people who could do analysis and [had] intuition, and these things are a constant. But now we are looking for more diversity. I look for people who will work well together but also bring a different perspective. 

Marketing directors should have a point of view but be able to work with other people’s point of view. The ability to think ahead while doing the day-to-day job is important.


What has been the best advice you have received?

MW: It was from a teacher when I was 17. I was trying to work out what to do at university. I had completed an online survey and it said I should be a manager of a quick service restaurant, which knocked me sideways. She said that I needed to decide what I wanted to do and what it would take to get there – then just to go for it.


What has been the ‘lightbulb’ moment in your career?

MW: My first marketing training was on a graduate scheme and it was about advertising. I remember the teacher saying “the thing about advertising is when you get a great idea and script, you will just know it because you will be excited and your nerves and hair will stand on end.” That comment came to life for me when I worked on the Maynard’s and Bassett’s brands and I saw the script for the Gorilla Cadbury ad and the first edit – I got that feeling.


What is your biggest challenge currently?

MW: Prioritising my time and efforts. My responsibilities are as much about general management as they are about marketing. Like many other marketing directors, I account for the profit and loss and the smooth running of the business as well. It creates a tension between working out the right balance of time to spend on projects versus people – I focus my time on where I can make the most difference.


Where do you tend to find new ideas?

MW: You can find new ideas in all sorts of places – if you are not seeing them, then there is a problem with those you are spending time with. I see ideas from history, the future, and different categories.


Matthew Williams is Mondelez’s UK marketing director for chocolate and the Marketing Week Engage Awards’ Senior Marketer of the Year , sponsored by Adobe.

CV: Matthew Williams


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