Agency Spotlight: Rita Madalina’s MONDOM

Rita Madalina is the founder of a digital marketing agency in Budapest, MONDOM, which literally means “I’m saying it” or “I’m telling it” in Hungarian. The name of the company sounds bold, fearless and fun.

Rita Madalina (left) heads MONDOM

MONDOM is actually a communications collective that doesn’t operate according to a traditional agency model. Rita explains: “That means we’re really small – only a few people who get together on a daily basis on every project, but there’s also a bigger network of senior professionals working in different fields like web development, photography, videography, etc.”

Today, she says, MONDOM concentrates on content – a switch in focus from last year.

“For the last 5 years we’ve worked in every field of communication, doing everything clients have requested, but I decided it would be better if we were to focus on just a few things, and that’s still a lot because content development includes not just copywriting but strategy, videos, photos, social media management – so this is still very complex.”

Events and classic media relations have fallen to the wayside, says Rita. And this decision was made way before the pandemic.

The head of MONDOM, Rita Madalina took some time out to speak to Sounds Serious’ Drew Leifheit about the interesting projects she’s presently working on and offered her perspectives on what’s going on in the media business in Hungary in the wake of the first wave of COVID-19.

DREW LEIFHEIT: Rita, I’ve seen that you recently shared online an interesting looking packaging for a bespoke gin brand and I don’t know how you’re involved with that, but could you tell me about it?

Mrs. Millicent: A boutique gin from Hungary

RITA MADALINA: Yes, we just really love the product: it’s a Hungarian gin called Mrs. Millicent. The name comes from a character in a very good Hungarian novel written by Antal Szerb. We started to work on this project because we just fell in love with it. My husband was  an art director at the company which created this brand and so we’ve seen this story from the beginning, how it developed.

When I got in touch with the client, I told them “I’m in love with it, I want to do it no matter what,” so we got the assignment to do their social communications. It was important for them to work with someone who is really involved and enthusiastic, so when they saw how I felt about their gin, they said immediately yes.

Are they giving you a taste, so you can truly understand the brand?

Of course! That’s the other reason I fell in love with this – because I’m a gin drinker and I know a lot about craft gin brands, so when I took my first sip of this one, i knew it was something special.

What are your thoughts on the consumption of luxury items in these times, when few people are going on holiday abroad? People have been spending more time at home, cooking more at home, drinking at home.

We’re seeing the same thing in our family life: we’re not going anywhere, not travelling, we’re trying to be safe and we’re spending more on quality. We’re really picky about what we buy now, not buying things that we don’t really need, but we are buying a few things to improve our moods.

For one, I became a subscriber to the Masterclass, which is very expensive but provided me with so much motivation and information during the quarantine – it was totally worth it.

If you’re able to speak about it, what kind of strategy are you planning for a brand like that? Are they mostly targeting the domestic market, or would they like to go global?

As a new brand, their first step is to create awareness – to reach as many people as possible. The messages themselves will select the audience. After that, the first phase, the communication can be more classic and more targeted. In the first phase it’s rather about being big and bold. Of course this depends on the budget, but we will do everything to make it work and make the most of it.

If we’re talking about an older luxury brand, I think the most important thing is to be authentic, understanding, not to be tone deaf as there are many people who are not rich but are able to spend some money on a few luxury items, and it’s good to be chosen by these people.

In the case of Gucci, what they did for a few months was also quite good: they stopped showing luxury fashion and started talking about the quarantine, health, safety and didn’t push their own agenda. Now, they’ve been starting to get back to normal, but not on such a high level as it was before, turning down the tone.

On a day-to-day basis, how much has COVID-19 changed what you do at MONDOM?

At first a few clients toned down their messages and the intensity of their communication, but after a few weeks everything went back to normal.

How would you rate the response of Hungarian companies when it comes to communicating about the coronavirus? How have they reached out and has it been enough?

Their reaction was quite swift. I liked a lot of their reactions that they sent, but as I see lots of companies ordered their employees to go back to their offices, which may not really be a good idea right now. So in some cases, it’s one thing what they communicate and another what’s going on in practice. Actually, during the quarantine times they were quite good – I saw a lot of very good communication.

As a corporate communicator are there any tips that you’d give to authorities regarding effective communication during a very chaotic situation?

Transparency is really important. Even if governments or institutions make mistakes, then it’s okay if they just communicate all of the details around them. They should do a better job of communicating data, so that people aren’t able to guess who has died on a given day.

I’ve seen a nonprofit organization give an example of how this data can be presented in a much gentler-but-still-transparent way and it should have been followed because it’s not really important to know that one given person had a heart attack, it’s important to know how many people died from a heart attack. It should be handled in a more professional way.

What do you think about opportunities for marketing and communications, PR people now?

I’ve seen an uptick, that more and more potential clients are asking for quotes and that’s not just our experience: I’ve heard the same from other agencies that we have a good relationship with and they’re also getting many more inquiries, which is good but I didn’t expect it; I thought everyone would cut their entire budget, everything would freeze, so it’s good to see that companies are thinking “we should do more in our communications”. It’s a surprise.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, has there been a particular campaign or interesting communication or something in the media which has caught your eye and you think is an effective marketing strategy?

I found Nike’s You can’t Stop Us campaign with the split screen very good and quite fresh. It features a lot of different pictures of sports events: on the one side of the screen you see one event, let’s say a football match, and on the other side, a totally different football match, but they edit it together as if it were one picture – it’s ingenious!

I wasn’t really sold from the first moment when I saw it in my news feed, but after a while after everyone started to post about it, I decided to watch it. It was really worth it, because it has a lot of movement, it’s exciting and has a really great message: sport will always be with us.

It’s weird to think about what the domino effect will be in terms of people losing their jobs, not spending as much in the economy. Have you thought much about how that could affect marketing consultancy firms like your own?

In one way or another it will affect all of us. What we have to do is to maintain our flexibility. What I learned last year is to never stop your business. Scaling is really important, so you can’t accept everyone as a client and then not perform. You will just lose those clients. A good balance in a new business is really important. Last year I had a partner whom I relied on, but then it didn’t work out – but I didn’t want to grow too fast, so I didn’t grow any new business, which was a huge mistake. It took more than half a year to get back on track. It was a big bump to get over. So in these times it is more important than ever to work on new business.

What are you parting thoughts about doing what you do going forward?

“Differentiate the clients, the topics, and be very good at what you do,” says Rita.

During quarantine we had a lot of time to think, so it gave us a chance to think over our lives and the conclusion I came to was that it’s good to be a generalist and not to have clients for example, only from the hospitality field, or just fashion. I’m also happy if I can work on software – I’m interested in that, but I wouldn’t mind working on the communication of a printer, because our task is to make the most of it – it’s a great challenge. I’m saying that because I’ve met a lot of people who don’t want to work on things that they don’t find interesting, which I think is a shame. If you’re a professional, you can work on anything.

Of course, for example, if there’s no chemistry with the client, that’s another question, or if you hate something, that’s okay. But if something is “neutral” or “boring” or you don’t have a grasp of something, then it’s no big deal, you just do it.

That was something that I always did; I’ve never selected clients only because I wanted them to be interesting or sexy ones, which has been a good thing because that’s made us survive. I think in the future that will be more important – you have to differentiate the clients, the topics, and be very good at what you do.

I think there will always be a lot of work and a lot of clients in our field of work, because social media has become so big and has become so powerful that there will always be a need for expertise in this field. For us communications professionals, there won’t be such big problems as for industries like tourism, hospitality. But only if we never stop learning.

Let’s hope for the best! Rita Madalina, thanks for your time.

A freelance communications consultant, Drew Leifheit is the founder of Sounds Serious, which specializes in content for B2B/B2C businesses including blog posts, feature stories, c-level interviews, podcast production, voiceovers, and internal newsletters.

Sounds Serious’ areas of expertise include professional services, brand management, energy, international affairs, SaaS, and the airline, travel, and dental tourism industries.

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