Oreo Is One Smart Cookie

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Oreo might have turned 102 this year, but the beloved cookie brand's marketing is still nimble—and social—enough to take a bite out of the competition.



If cookies can be said to have laurels, Oreo isn't a brand to rest on them. Aiming to maintain the momentum of a blockbuster two-year stretch of marketing that included the much-awarded and emulated Daily Twist campaign and the now-infamous Super Bowl blackout tweet, Oreo branched out with an entirely new brand platform.

Launched in May 2013, the “Wonderfilled” campaign represents an evolution of sorts, says Magnus Hierta, creative director at The Martin Agency, the creative shop responsible for Oreo's most recent effort.

Though playful in tone, the goal of Wonderfilled is to expand Oreo's target audience beyond moms and children to anyone who could use a reminder to “see the world with the same sense of wonder we had as kids,” says Kristin Hajinlian, Oreo brand manager at Mondeléz International.

“Most of us first experience our first Oreo cookie as kids, a time when we're surrounded by awe and amazement with the world around us,” Hajinlian adds. “[Wonderfilled] encourages all of us to have a more wide-eyed and open-hearted approach to life.”

Although Wonderfilled represents a completely new twist for Oreo, the campaign continues to embrace the cookie brand's core values: humor, imagination, socialness, and fun.

As Hierta puts it: “Oreo has 25% of its category and all of its competitors are miles away—so why do a 180 when what Oreo has works?”

Beyond twist, lick, and dunk

Wonderfilled is about getting Oreo out of the cookie aisle, both literally and figuratively. From TV, pre-roll, and out-of-home, right down to the packaging level in-store, Wonderfilled will be part of the brand DNA for the foreseeable future.

The top-level Wonderfilled messaging asks a simple question, “I wonder if…” The possible answers, according to Martin Agency Creative Director David Muhlenfeld, are endless. The Martin Agency partnered with a number of artists and musicians, including Chiddy Bang and Tegan and Sara, for animated video variations of the Wonderfilled theme song. In one version by electronic musician Owl City, the singer asks, “Wonder if I / gave an Oreo / to a vampire / in a creepy show / Would he not act so undead? / Would he thirst for milk instead?” In another, country singer Kacey Musgraves wistfully muses, “Wonder if I / gave an Oreo / to this cute guy / that I used to know / Would it not have ended like it did? / Would we now have kids?”

In other words: When you share an Oreo with someone, anything is possible, Muhlenfeld says.

Within 48 hours of launch, the initial TV spots were shared 260% above Oreo's average, and according to The Martin Agency, Wonderfilled social buzz overall has increased the brand's positive sentiment by 12% over benchmark.

During the 2013 holiday season The Martin Agency worked with production company Brand New School to create massive digital displays spread across several screens on the NASDAQ and Thomson Reuters buildings in Times Square. Synced animations showed a variety of different cartoon hands belonging to normally opposed characters sharing and dunking Oreos in the spirit of the season and of the Wonderfilled campaign in general. A farmer handed an Oreo to an alien; the big, bad wolf gave one to the three little pigs; and a knight passed a cookie to a dragon.

“A brand like Oreo is so well-suited to playfulness,” says Devin Brook, partner and executive producer at Brand New School. “And the beauty of experiential work is that it looks so cool, you don't even realize you're watching a big ad.”

The overall message Oreo aims to express with its campaign is, simply and implicitly, to spark childlike wonder and optimism—but Muhlenfeld is quick to point out that it isn't about being juvenile. “In a way, Oreo has always been about childlike delight, but this is not about being childish,” Muhlenfeld says. “Wonderfilled is about a shift in point-of-view to see things in the way a kid might see them. And that's the challenge of every project—not to go off the deep end and get too fantastical.”

Social slam dunks

There's probably not a PowerPoint presentation on real-time marketing created after February 3, 2013 that doesn't include a reference to the “You can still dunk in the dark” tweet sent just moments after the blackout at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans.

Although social engagement has always been important to the cookie brand, the Super Bowl tweet represented a watershed for Oreo.

“The moment helped influence how we engage with fans today about what's happening in their lives and in the world around us,” says Mondeléz's Hajinlian, who notes that successful marketing centers on a brand's ability to be genuine and keep up with the continually changing rhythms of culture. Social conversations aren't sparked by luck—they come about when a brand realizes what its fans are passionate about and responds with authentic content. In fact, Oreo was able to react so quickly and relevantly to the Super Bowl blackout because of the preparedness to respond in the moment its marketers developed during the Daily Twist campaign.

Part of what made the Daily Twist campaign—developed by former Oreo agency FCB (previously known as Draftfcb) and current digital AOR 360i—so irresistibly shareable was the cultural relevancy. To commemorate its 100th birthday, the brand created 100 pieces of content in 100 days, each one an homage to a significant event—everything from an Oreo sailing through the air toward a goal post constructed out of drinking straws on September 5, the first day of football season, to the imprint of a hand in cookie cream to mark the anniversary of the high-five on October 2.

Each morning, team members on the Oreo account would meet to see what was trending online and create a piece of content in response to what people were actually talking about. Each twist was pushed out to the Oreo community on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and posted to a dedicated landing page (oreo.com/dailytwist) where fans could comment, share, and post suggestions for forthcoming twists.

It was culture jacking with a sense of fun and whimsy—the same components that comprise Oreo's most recent Wonderfilled work.

“Oreo is a social cookie—both offline and online; we take pride in the large, passionate community we have across social platforms because it allows us to connect with our fans on a human level,” Hajinlian says. “We strive to engage them in a way that's playful and lighthearted, which we hope helps them to take life a little less seriously and stay connected to our brand.”



Sometimes it's OK to play with your food

Despite being a multibillion-dollar brand, Oreo is willing to experiment, especially with new social platforms. Last year Oreo noticed a trend among some consumers; they were using the cookie as an ingredient to create new dishes and recipes, and then sharing the results online.

For many big companies, relinquishing brand control would cause a case of the nervous sweats, but Oreo saw an opportunity to get involved with what its fans were already doing, and to give them “more creative freedom in creating new ways to enjoy the cookie,” Hajinlian says.

As part of Wonderfilled, the brand leveraged Twitter's Vine to create a series of six-second video “Snack Hacks”—branded #Oreosnackhacks—that demonstrate Oreo's versatility. In one, dubbed the “Party Dunk,” the middle row of a large plastic pack of Oreos is emptied and filled with milk, essentially creating the cookie and milk equivalent of chips and dip. In another, Oreo fills an ice tray with milk and crumbled cookie bits to create Oreo cookie ice cubes ideal for iced coffee.

Oreo then reached out to celebrity chefs and asked them to get in on the hacking fun in what became a series of viral videos featuring gourmet recipes for unexpected Oreo pairings, like chicken tenders made with golden Oreo cookies, Oreo tortilla chips, and even Oreo Shandy. All the hacks were eventually aggregated on Tumblr (oreo.tumblr.com), where fans could post their own user-generated hacks and view hack galleries.

“We're continually exploring and looking at new ways to keep Oreo fans excited and engaged through our social media platforms,” Hajinlian says. “We let conversation around the brand and what's happening in culture lead what platform we use to communicate.”

Oreo's presence on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter speaks to that, with content and dialogues that embrace the particular nature of each social platform. According to Hajinlian, the brand develops a unique content strategy for each that ladders up to its overall Wonderfilled brand strategy, but also leaves room for flexibility and spontaneous content. For example, Oreo jumped on National Haiku Poetry Day (April 17) with a series of funny #SnackHaikus, which in turn generated earned media from fans who wrote their own Oreo-inspired haikus, such as, “Remove creme filling / replace with peanut butter / watch my kids go nuts.”

“We take into account that in many cases, we're not just adding a new channel, but joining a new community,” Hajinlian says. “For Tumblr and Instagram especially, we publish content that fits with the community's tone and sense of humor, like GIFs or original photography that show the product in natural settings.”

Humor currently drives most of what Oreo does. For example, last Christmas The Martin Agency collaborated with rap artist JINX for “Cookie Balls,” a musical holiday-themed paean to reindeer and snowman cake pops, featuring lyrics such as, “I'm makin' something I'll be givin' all y'all; come Christmas mornin', you gon' taste some cookie balls.” The video has nearly 1.5 million views to date. As one user commented on YouTube: “Omg this is the first time I've searched an ad the song is so catchy!”

“For us, Wonderfilled is like a great big tent that can hold a variety of different creative ideas,” says The Martin Agency's Muhlenfeld. “It's been really nice working with Oreo because they're instinctively savvy.”

Not every century-old brand can say the same.

“We look to keep the brand fresh and exciting through new experiences we offer our fans, whether that's an engaging social activation, an unexpected new flavor, or new ways to use the cookie,” Hajinlian says. “With a 102-year history, the challenge we face is to keep evolving with the world over time while staying true and authentic to what people love about Oreo.”

And people clearly do love Oreo. According to social intelligence platform NetBase, Wonderfilled has garnered more than 28,000 mentions on Twitter since the campaign launched last year, resulting in over 138.6 million potential impressions. Social sentiment for the campaign has also been overwhelmingly favorable, with 96.9% of engagement on Twitter coming in positive.

13 Oreo cookies were consumed during the writing of this article.

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