Damien Venuto: Is this the stupidest marketing idea of 2020?


It’s not often that corporate-speak provokes a gag reflex, but a multinational confectionery juggernaut served up something nauseating this week.

In a promotional video that dances uncomfortably close to parody, Cadbury owner Mondelez proclaims: “We need to stop marketing and start humaning.”

Despite spellcheck serving up its squiggly alarm as soon as I typed that, no, this was not a typo. “Humaning” is now the raison d’être that underpins the company’s strategic effort to communicate with people.

Beyond the linguistic horror show of turning the noun “human” into an awkward verb, the thing that makes this offending so egregious is how utterly unnecessary it is.

Is it that marketers are so removed from the concept of humanity that they need to be reminded their job is to connect with humans?

Or maybe they just felt the marketing lexicon needed another ludicrous phrase.

What’s most baffling about this is that this comes from the organisation that owns the Cadbury brand, renowned for some great advertising – not least the Cadbury gorilla that drummed its way into hearts around the world with the help of Phil Collins’ hit track “In The Air Tonight”.

That gorilla, with its giant furry shoulders and intense gaze, had more humanity than any corporate moniker striving to “feed the hunger for human connection”.


This nonsense likely won’t damage the Mondelez brand – simply because enough people won’t see it. But the real damage being done here is to an industry that has long been derided as the colouring-in department of business.

It’s yet another example that will be paraded as evidence of the ridiculousness of marketing. This is a gross oversimplification of marketing, but the industry only has itself to blame for giving critics such easily accessible ammunition.

To put this into perspective, “humaning” only comes in at number 10 on marketing critic Mark Ritson’s “All-time marketing BS Index”.

Other notable examples of marketing BS include marketers becoming “storytellers” (see LinkedIn descriptions for further evidence); the decades-old axiom that every brand needs a USP (unique selling point) to be successful; and the idea that products can be separated into a group of 12 brand archetypes (such as the jester, the outlaw and the sage).

As Ritson goes on to explain in an article for Marketing Week: “I’ve met scores of companies who have asked me to explain what they are meant to do with this stuff and I’ve always given the same advice. Bin it.”

The motivation behind these cringe-worthy ideas is most often to explain away the messy complexity of creativity. But that’s like trying to explain a joke to a group of people who just don’t get it.

The moment you start, things begin to get contrived and awkward. The more you mumble, the starker the silence becomes. And before long, you become the joke being told behind your back.

This is not to say that every piece of corporate waffle that comes out the marketing industry is automatically derided and rejected.

In 1992, the term “disruption” was coined by French adman Jean-Marie Dru, the chairman of ad agency TBWA, to refer to a radical change in the marketplace.

Rather than being ridiculed, this twist on the word spawned books, Harvard Business Review articles, has become part of business journalism parlance, and is often seen in headlines on stories describing technology, ideas or events that have shaken the market.

The longevity of the word is also evidenced by the fact that even in this market TBWA, the ad agency behind ANZ and 2degrees, continues to refer to itself as “The Disruption Company”.

“Disruption” works because it introduced a word that was legitimately useful in the context of simply explaining the chaos of the corporate world. “Humaning”, on the other hand, does no such thing. It just adds unnecessary fluff to a narrative we’re all well versed in. To put this in editing terms, “disruption” is the word you’d use to replace many superfluous lines of explanation, whereas “humaning” is the verbosity you’d quickly delete.

The one negative with “disruption” is that it became so unwieldy and widely used that TBWA lost ownership of it.

But this might not be as bad as it seems – especially not when you consider how Vaseline has become shorthand for petroleum jelly, hoovering for vacuuming and Jacuzzi for spa pools. Sometimes you just need to know when to let go.

And in the case of Mondelez and “humaning”, that time is now.

Source: Read Full Article