Keeping an Eye Out for Social and Mobile Innovations

Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the September 2013 issue of . Subscribe »

Bonin Bough is a gregarious executive for a digital era. Imposing in ambition and wit, the vice president of global media and consumer engagement for Mondel?z International strives for authenticity in his every interaction.

In an effort to energize staid brands, Mondel?z's accelerator Mobile Futures is deploying new social and mobile innovations. For example, the snack-food company is pairing its Trident gum with mobile music app Lisnr to give consumers exclusive content via TV and social sites.

We sat down with the F100 marketing veteran (formerly with PepsiCo) who's keeping a sharp eye out for game-changing ideas.

How do you capture the spirit of entrepreneurship within a big company?
I think there is a shift happening now where we are open-sourcing innovation. When Mondel?z and Kraft split, we asked ourselves, "What does the future of a big organization like ours look like?" We see ourselves as the world's largest startup. With Mobile Futures, the goal is not just to identify startups we want to work with, but also to create cultural transference so that we are closer to entrepreneurship and better business partners.

Isn't the creative incubator team always at the mercy of the parent?
Big organizations suffer from politics, regime change. The thing is, those who "think different" actually grow inside of big organizations, but it takes a certain kind of talent who is willing to be different. The org is inherently built to create non-risk-takers, and yet this is all about risk immersion.

When all is said and done, isn't this just R&D on a longer leash?
It's co-creation at scale with partners that can mutually benefit from success. It's the evolution of R&D.

It's almost like there's no difference between what Mobile Futures is doing and what an investor does.
Except that we provide the case study. I've worked with startups for 10 years. I have helped them go from an idea on paper to [in six months] being in 21 markets, 19 languages. If you get into businesses like us, almost overnight you could be at scale. It's crazy not to look at it.

How does Mobile Futures evaluate success?
First is our collective ability to execute on the 90-day timeline of the program's first phase. Second, we want culture. Part of partnering with a startup is going and working directly alongside the startup. So for up to two weeks our brand marketers have to work at the startup's offices to understand what that culture's like. It's key since, whether a pilot works or not, it's really about, Have we actually had an impact on the culture here?

In your opinion, where do the big ideas come from these days? Do you think that some of the technology greats like Tim Berners-Lee, Vinton Cerf or even Marc Andreessen would have succeeded in a corporate environment?

For us it's about making sure that we're helping to recruit the next Marc Andreessen to come and reshape who we are as an organization and bring that spirit. Make no mistake about it--we are celebrating a type of behavior to create a specific type of culture. It's not about risk-taking for risk's sake; it's about seeing the trend, identifying opportunity and seizing a moment.

Mobility creates a world of connected things. Every single thing will be connected--including, eventually, our packaging, pricing schemes for our retailers and our supply chain. We are going to be catapulted into being one of the world's largest technology companies.

We launched seven mobile-innovation pilots in the U.S. in less than 90 days. Now we have a structure to replicate that. We need to not only build that culture of behavior, but also to recruit the type of folks who are going to be able to think that way and want to work inside the organization.

Andreessen and Berners-Lee are brilliant, so they would've done brilliantly inside the organization. I think they would've had to do a lot of the same stuff that we're doing now, which is to continue to push the organization to create platforms to structurally bring about that innovation culture.

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