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Is humaning just a failed buzzword - or does it actually have longevity?

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

If you're paying attention to what's going on in marketing over the past week, you may well have heard of 'humaning'. Firstly, let me explain what this is.

Mondelēz International, the global snack food company with brands like Cadbury, Oreo and Philadelphia, have crafted a new concept aligned to their diversity and inclusion strategy called 'humaning'.

Here's the definition in their words:

"Humaning is a unique, consumer-centric approach to marketing that creates real, human connections with purpose, moving Mondelēz International beyond cautious, data-driven tactics, and uncovering what unites us all. We are no longer marketing to consumers, but creating connections with humans."

Now that to me is a mouthful and could do with an extra full stop/period to make more of an impact.

You can read more on their website, however the content has since disappeared due to the uproar it has caused. But those in the know can go to Wayback Archive - The Internet Archive and see the page that was archived. (Just to note, this is a free service like Wikipedia that is always looking for funding.) Here is the page for your reference:

Why has it caused such an uproar?

Since its launch, this new marketing strategy 'humaning' has been heavily criticized. While their intentions clearly came from a good place, it has gone down like a lead balloon facing criticism from the media, PR and marketing professionals and many on social media. I feel sorry for the people that bought into this new concept - we're all human and we've all had moments where we have a failed campaign or sent something out with an error etc. So, should we cut them some slack, or is 'humaning' just another failed buzzword fuelling the 'marketing is fluff' fire?

Mondelēz International chief marketing officer Martin Renaud has defended this new strategy. Ultimately he said that he expected some criticism but hoped people would look at what has been achieved so far and where can they accelerate the journey. He welcomes the criticism as a form of feedback, though they will continue to adopt this strategy and hope people will start to concentrate on 'why' they created the word - not what the word is.

He goes on to say: "Humaning is when storytelling becomes storydoing." Now, I have a problem with this. Why take such a great concept like storytelling and try to spin into something new called 'storydoing'? I get what they are trying to achieve, with one being telling the story to someone and the other being those individuals actually taking action. But if they really understood storytelling, they'd know it was more than about action - it's about that feeling you get inside, the connection you feel, what resonates and what you do because of that. If anything, storydoing is just a part of storytelling. It's like saying when marketing becomes events. Events sits under the umbrella of marketing: events is part of the ideology of marketing.

When I first saw 'humaning' last week, it didn't resonate with me. I understood what it was trying to achieve in the grand scheme of things, but it just doesn't work for me and it left me feeling confused. I applaud them moving from a financially driven mindset to a consumer-centric one with human connection at their core. I like that their marketing team has four key areas of focus now: leading with purpose; making each product "right"; mastering creativity, and being digital-first. But humaning and storydoing.... no, not for me. Only yesterday someone mentioned to me that idea of marketing being fluffy - clearly as marketers, we know it's not, but how can we move away from that when we're creating buzzwords like this?

If you are interested in reading more, here are some additional sources:

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