Joining other major companies and brands such as Unilever, Nike, PepsiCo, Lexus, BMW and AT&T in spurring mobile innovation around its brands, Mondelez International is investing in mobile startups in the hopes that they'll bring the kind of game-changing innovations to the company that often are hard to come by at corporate stalwarts such as the global-snacks operation that used to be part of Kraft Foods.
That said, it was Kraft that spearheaded the mobile incubator program that Mondelez is now running with. Mondelez just announced nine startups to participate in an ambitious new mobile-technology initiative aimed at drivng more impulse purchases and better in-store marketing. Called Mobile Futures, the program kicked off in October with a call for new ideas that drew 126 applications. Twenty-two startups survived the first cut, then were narrowed to nine after a two-day pitch event last month.
Mondelez hopes to launch one or two mobile-focused tech companies out of the process as well as garner new applications specifically for its business. It's one important way in which the spinoff — which owns megabrands such as Oreo, Trident, Stride and Cadbury — is attempting to do business differently, more dynamically, than in its old incarnation paired with what has now become Kraft's North American grocery business.
"Platforms such as Mobile Futures ... give our brands the opportunity to work one-on-one with some of the best and brightest startups in social TV, geolocatoin and where mobile meets retail," Bonin Bough, Mondelez's vice president of global media and consumer engagement, wrote in Ad Age. "This lets us expose our brand marketers to the entrepreneurial spirit and infuse that spirit into our culture. Taking these leaps helps us seize the media and multidimensional opportunity presented by mobile and ensure that innovation remains at Mondelez International's core."
Under the program, each team of a Mondelez brand and a startup is to develop mobile pilots over the next three months that cover areas such as in-store marketing, location-based advertising and social-TV applications. The brands and their mobile partners:
- Trident + interactive audio startup Lisnr
- Stride + mobile navigation app-maker Waze (subject of Apple's eye)
- Chips Ahoy! + video enabler Shelby.tv
- Halls + branded contest creator Dailybreak
- belVita + shopping rewards app inMarket
- Sour Patch Kids + rewards-based games app Kiip
- OREO + social locator Banjo
- Multi-brand program + rewards purveyor Endorse
One particular challenge the startups are supposed to tackle is the fact that in-store marketing promotions find audiences more and more difficult to garner. "Before the iPhone," a Mondelez spokeswoman told MarketingWeek, "consumers would shop aisles focused on the task t hand or stand in line and look up at product displays near the register. Now the vast majority of consumers are absorbed with their phones, distracting them from in-store point-of-sale displays."
Mondelez and its brands will keep trying to find their own answers to such challenges, of course. But now they'll have some agile mobile help as the brand/startup partners swiftly develop and launch their mobile ventures — in only 90 days.
As Ed Kaczmarek, Mondelez Director of Innovation & Emerging Technology, blogged, "a huge THANK YOU to all the startups who applied, and god speed to the newly forged teams as they hustle over the next 90 days to launch pilots into market."