Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

#InOurOwnWords: How did this campaign inspire the love of reading in South Africa in 2021? [Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

April 27, 2023

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more. 

A Note from Miles Everson:

Are you familiar with guerrilla marketing? 

For those of you who aren’t yet, guerrilla marketing is an unconventional, engaging, and impactful marketing strategy. Campaigns of this type spark an emotional reaction that leads to lasting brand recall and sometimes, awareness about a social issue. 

I personally like reading about these kinds of topics. They remind me that promoting or advertising a brand doesn’t always have to be too conventional, complex, or serious. 

Would you like to know an example of guerrilla marketing? 

Keep reading below to know how this chocolate brand reinforced its core values of kindness and generosity through a heartwarming campaign in South Africa in 2021. 

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing 

Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, once said: 

“When we read, we are able to travel to many places, meet many people, and understand the world.” 

Reading is a crucial and foundational aspect of learning. Many literacy experts agree that when people know how to read, especially in their mother tongues, it’s easier to build on and broaden their learning experiences. 

Besides, according to early literacy specialist Xolisa Guzula, the love of reading is sparked when people see and relate themselves in stories written in their native languages. 

… but did you know that in South Africa, the very country where Mandela once led, only 2% of books were written in local African languages? This accounted for low literacy rates in the country. 

Allow us to give you a brief overview of the events that led to such statistics… 

The “Read to Succeed” Initiative 

South Africa has 11 official languages, but during the period of Apartheid, English and Afrikaans were the only languages enforced in schools. 

[Apartheid: A system of institutionalized segregation between South Africa’s white minority and non-white majority from 1948 to the early 1990s.] 

Although Apartheid no longer exists today, local African languages only account for 2% of published books in the country despite the fact that only 20% of the population speak English or Afrikaans as their first language. 

Because of that, South Africa is one of the countries with the lowest literacy rates in the world. 

In an effort to help address this issue, one chocolate brand used guerrilla marketing to nurture the love of reading among South African children. The name of that brand? 

Cadbury Dairy Milk

Photo from It’s Nice That

Cadbury Dairy Milk is known for its “A Glass and A Half” tagline that reflects the brand’s core values of kindness and generosity. In fact, many of its marketing campaigns are centered around these principles. 

We featured some of them in our past “Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing” articles: 

Today, we’ll focus on the brand’s campaign to address South Africa’s literacy concerns. It’s called… 

The “In Our Own Words” campaign

Photo from Cadbury Joy Vault

Conducted in May 2021 with the help of marketing and communications agencies Ogilvy South Africa and WPP, Cadbury’s guerrilla marketing campaign was based on the insight that being able to read in one’s home language is a foundational step towards literacy. 

Through a mobile-first campaign, South Africans were asked to translate a single word into their mother tongue. Afterwards, the translations were used by local authors to write unique children’s stories. This led to the creation of the country’s first ever user-generated virtual library. 

Photo from Ogilvy

What else? 

Using the bank of translated vocabularies, Cadbury adapted its media strategy to target South Africans in their native languages. The additional texts on the chocolate brand’s packaging in the country and other marketing collaterals directed people to the multilingual library of children’s literature. 

The campaign team also created printed and recorded read-along versions of the story books for those unable to access the virtual library. 

Photo from Ogilvy

Wait, there’s more! 

Alongside the virtual library, Cadbury also launched the hero film piece, “Mrs. Mabena,” which tells the story of a boy named Sifiso and his tutor, Mrs. Mabena. The two become closely connected through a small but meaningful act of kindness and generosity. 

Photo from Vimeo

In one of the scenes in the film, viewers see Mrs. Mabena teaching Sifiso, who somewhat feels resistant to her strict instructions. At the end of the day, when the latter sees Mrs. Mabena declining his mother’s payment, he realizes the teacher isn’t strict at all—she’s just extending a hand of generosity. 

Sifiso decides to pay that act forward by slipping his own bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk into Mrs. Mabena’s bag. 

Oh, what a heartwarming film! 

The short video was aired as a commercial on South African TV until September 30, 2021. Meanwhile, the virtual library of children’s story books remains open until today. 

Was Cadbury Dairy Milk’s “In Our Own Words” campaign effective? 

The campaign was helpful in getting South Africans to read books and other materials in their own languages. Many of them, especially parents, understood the importance of teaching their children their mother tongues as a foundation for literacy and learning in general. 

Here are the results of the campaign: 

  • During the campaign, a total of 500 unique stories were created using the bank of translated vocabularies. 
  • About 52,000 printed story books were made available for children across South Africa. 
  • The campaign reached over 60 million people from South Africa and in other parts of the world. 
  • The campaign drove an 11% increase in gross sales value (GSV), 7% increase in volume growth, and 10% increase in market share for Cadbury in South Africa. 
  • The campaign won 2 Bronze Awards under the Integrated Campaign and Digital Social Media categories at the Loeries Awards 2022. 

Kudos, Cadbury, Ogilvy South Africa, and WPP! 

Clearly, these results show the guerrilla marketing campaign was helpful not just in expanding Cadbury’s reach and boosting its image but also in helping South Africans get in touch with their own native languages. 


Cadbury has always been at the forefront of the belief that there’s “a glass and a half” of kindness in everyone. That’s why it ensures many of its marketing activities are founded on generosity and social impact. 

In the case of the “In Our Own Words” campaign, the brand showed how its tagline could inspire the love of reading among South Africans. 

As a result, Cadbury demonstrated that words are powerful and that through education and literacy, South Africans can rewrite their narratives in their own words—one word at a time. 

As Langa Khanyile, Cadbury’s Chocolate Equity Lead for Sub-Saharan Africa, said: 

“Cadbury Dairy Milk has always been a brand that aims to bring people closer together, we are founded in the spirit of generosity and pioneering social impact. This work forms part of a journey that calls on all South Africans to help tackle the pertinent social tension of illiteracy and help rewrite the narratives of our people.” 

Get inspired by today’s guerrilla marketing feature! 

Always remember your brand’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) arm. By operating in a way that is ethical and helpful to the communities you are in, your business will not only maximize its revenues but also win the hearts of your target audience. 

It’s time to craft an awesome guerrilla marketing strategy “in your own words” too! 

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.) 

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerrilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerrilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers, and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerrilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s about making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerrilla Marketing can be inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business’ or brand’s dream!

Every Thursday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerrilla campaign. You do not need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerrilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Thursday’s Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing!


Kyle Yu 
Head of Marketing 
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities 
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