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More diverse teams are more reflective of the world we live in and are thus better able to serve it

Langa Khanyile

Thursday, November 24, 2022

What is your current role and what makes it exciting?

I am the Marketing Lead for ROA (the Rest of Africa). This excludes South Africa, North Africa, and Nigeria, and represents the biggest part of Africa geographically, but the smallest portion by current sales. My role is exciting because our team is often the first introduction to Mondelēz across the vast majority of our continent and the breadth of our snacking portfolio. We are a lean team, with great ambitions, and the will to achieve them. ROA is roa-ring with possibility and will drive the growth of our business over the long term. I feel privileged to be able to shape our organization in that way.

How has your career developed at MDLZ?

This is my second time at Mondelēz. I first joined the company (then Cadbury Schweppes) almost straight out of varsity in 2007 as the Assistant Brand Manager on Moulded Slabs ("Tablets" these days) for South Africa; and then again to lead Equity on Chocolate for the Middle East and Africa in 2017, before being promoted into my current role as Marketing Lead for Rest of Africa at the start of this year. In the years between my departure and return, I mostly worked on leading global brands in the alcoholic beverage space and always looked back at my days at Cadbury with great fondness. I'm incredibly grateful to be back, for there are few businesses that truly care about people quite as Mondelēz does - it's in our DNA, our Quaker roots and you can feel it. Mondelēz has given me the opportunity to work across the marketing disciplines - from innovation to equity to managing multiple categories and markets, the opportunities to hone my craft and capabilities are encouraged and unconstrained.

What does it take to be successful as a brand manager or marketer in the industry?

Love your consumers. Love people. Love humanity. Be fascinated by humankind. Have a desire to serve them as best as you possibly can. Love your brands. Know how they came AND how they come about - from dust to dustbin. Have a deep hunger for ways to make your brand ever more relevant to your consumers. Revere your competitors but never revel in them. Assume they are working on your constant demise, but focus all your energies instead on serving your consumers better than they could even imagine. Partner deeply with your agency humans, they are your super-power, the multipliers of your ideas and impact. We work and win in teams and no marketer succeeds alone. Invest in your collegial relationships across this business and in every business you work in, you never know where the next great idea might come from. Most importantly, love yourself, for the sake of others, and make time for that which nourishes you - be that family, walks, or doing nothing, you cannot pour from an empty cup.

Langa three pictures

What kind of project, assignments have you done outside of the traditional career moves that helped you further your career?

I have been quite lucky to have been in or led teams on both brown and greenfield investment projects where the canvas is clean and broad. The norm as marketers is to develop and deliver growth for existing consumers from existing production facilities using existing brands. When all three are new it poses an interesting set of challenges that few marketers are lucky to solve. Success on such projects has bolstered my self-confidence, not only as a marketer but also as an entrepreneur who is able to connect the dots of my decisions across the business and more broadly into society at large.

How do you embed diversity in your marketing activities

I am a gay black man in a post Apartheid South Africa, serving consumers who live in some of the most repressive countries in the world, I am thus acutely attuned to the enormous task we face to make the world more humane for more of us. The commercial dividend of diversity is simple - more diverse teams are more reflective of the world we live in and are thus better able to serve it. Internally, I ensure that I help embed diversity in the organization by actively seeking to recruit and give opportunities to candidates from diverse backgrounds. I am also particular that the communication work we do is representative of the communities we serve, for example, by casting black parents and children in our TV adverts, using local languages instead of English, and working with more diverse creative development teams.

How do you describe the culture at MDLZ

The culture at Mondelēz is very warm and caring - it often feels like we are a big family more than just colleagues. We care a lot about and invest heavily in people and people's development, and performance is measured not only in the "what" of delivery but also in the "how" of delivery. I joined from a very direct and transactional environment and initially struggled with and was suspicious of all the Mondelēz love bombing, but the business quickly softened me and changed me from a corporate shark into a corporate teddy bear :-).

And finally, what is your favorite MDLZ brand? What kind of (childhood) memories are attached to it?

I have a massive soft spot for Cadbury chomp - that chocolate is the embodiment of some of my fondest childhood memories. I grew up at a time when South Africa had just abolished Apartheid and kids from all racial backgrounds could go to the same schools for the first time. Back then, no kiddies party was complete without a chomp