B. Bonin Bough

Title: Vice-president of global media and consumer engagement
Company: Mondelez International
Size: $64bn market capitalisation; 107,000 employees

FUTURE FACING: Embracing the ethos of a start-up

Although a leader at a $64bn global snack foods company, B. Bonin Bough believes he has a lot to learn from start-ups.

The 36-year-old New York native is vice-president of global media and consumer engagement at Mondelez International, which sells such well-known brands as Oreo, Cadbury, Ritz, Wheat Thins and Trident. Yet he is closely watching technology upstarts for ideas that can give his social business strategy extra energy.

Mr Bough seems to be using his physics degree to follow the electron-like movements of consumers hooked on technology and to understand how they are affecting business. He also draws on a love of mathematics, logic and technological innovation. “Computers have always been part of my DNA,” he says.

Being innovative and “future-looking” is a necessity for established organisations, he argues. Operating on old models “would have been okay 15 years ago”, explains Mr Bough, who previously served as the global director of digital and social media for PepsiCo. But established leaders face a growing number of tech companies that “want to disrupt traditional industries”. For example, Airbnb is upending hotels. Business as usual could be dangerous.

To stay in front of disruptive marketing trends, Mr Bough has pushed for all of Mondelez’s media investments—television, print and digital—to be interconnected and driven by a “digital-first viewpoint”.

This vision has been on display at Oreo. In March 2012, the Oreo team created the hugely successful “Daily Twist” campaign to celebrate the cookie brand’s 100th anniversary. “Daily Twist” produced 100 cookie-themed print and digital tributes to pop culture in just 100 days.

Oreo also set up a social media “war room” to help brand, agency and senior marketing executives score real-time marketing opportunities. This initiative suddenly did double-duty during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout. In matter of minutes, the Mondelez team tweeted “Power out? No Problem”, along with a graphic ad showcasing an Oreo and the memorable tagline: “You can still dunk in the dark.” The timely tweet and graphic generated wide press coverage and more than half a billion web and mobile media impressions.

But Mr Bough’s Mobile Futures Accelerator Program may prove to be his most influential contribution, inside and outside the company. This initiative paired nine start-up mobile-technology companies with Mondelez brand teams to produce pilot mobile projects that could drive impulse purchases on the go.

“We wanted to identify what technologies are entering the marketplace and can have impact in the business,” Mr Bough says. Another goal was “changing our culture—helping us rethink our approach and act more like a start-up”.

As he sees it, watching and working with newcomers can help old standbys identify and seize on new technologies and ideas that are on the rise and create more “intrepreneurial” cultures that are willing to take risks.

In that spirit, Mondelez is launching two beta platforms from the Mobile Futures initiative: Prankster, to create prank-based videos, and Betabox, which inserts product samples in boxes shipped by e-commerce companies and messages encouraging consumers to engage with the brands via mobile.

Mr Bough also has his eye on product personalisation and 3D printing. Faced with these potential disruptions to the food industry, he urges his colleagues to be proactive: “I’ve been passionate to make sure that people own their destinies.”






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