Is Oreo really the brilliant marketers everyone thinks they are?

Oreo. Say the brand name in a room for of marketers these days and you’ll quickly hear words like “OMG– love”, “real-time marketing experts” and “brilliant marketers.”


And I’ve been one of those people singing their praises in the past. I love some of the content marketing Oreo has done on Facebook, specifically.

But, this MediaBistro post put me over the edge. And this AdAge post is just plain ridiculous. Both were the result of a quippy exchange between Oreo and Kit Kat a couple weeks back.

Oreo Kit Kat

If you’ll remember, Oreo has been rather adept at navigating these Twitter comebacks. Remember the AMC Theater back-and-forth?

Oreo AMC

Yes, Oreo has done some ground-breaking things when it comes to content marketing online and even “real-time marketing”, if you want to use that label. Maybe most importantly they’ve built a model with Nabisco where they can move and create content and responses in a very agile and fast-moving way–that’s definitely nothing to slough off as I have yet to see a lot of brands do this well.

But, should we really be ready to crown them (or their agency) as the greatest marketers to ever walk the earth?

I’m not so sure.

We’ve become so entirely swept up in the real-time marketing/quippy Twitter responses hype engine–and we have no proof any of this is actually working (outside of the top-line social metrics we can all see, which isn’t much).

Look back at those MediaBistro and AdAge articles–is this what constitutes “successful” marketing online these days?

And all this, for what? Because Oreo provided a couple clever responses to KitKat’s equally as clever a response? Again, this is what serves as “success” now in terms of marketing online?

I think the entire internet just threw up in its mouth a little.

Like I said before, I thought some of Oreo’s prior content marketing efforts were fairly smart. Building unique visual content that plays off the product itself? Leveraging useless holidays to create a conversation and awareness around Oreo? Even the Super Bowl post, to an extent. Those were smart strategies to build brand for Oreo online.

But, this Twitter chit-chat stuff with Kit-Kat (and before, AMC Theaters)? I just don’t see it as “brilliant marketing.” I see it as clever tweet writing. Nothing more. Nothing less.

For all the cool back-and-forths, what has Oreo really accomplished? Sure, these exchanges have gotten the brand a fair amount of press. And I’m sure they impact volume and sentiment since they usually lead to a number of RTs and replies. But, did all this sell more cookies or build markedly more awareness for the brand? Of course, we don’t know because we aren’t Oreo or its agency.

So what do you think? Is Oreo really the brilliant marketers everyone has labeled them to be? Love a lot of what they’ve done, but I’m not ready to crown them just yet…

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38 comments on “Is Oreo really the brilliant marketers everyone thinks they are?

  1. jeffespo says:

    Arik Hanson I love this post and don’t say that often and enjoy when you get a chip on your shoulder. In terms of the content game, I do respect them but agree that the cross-brand pollination is overkill. I could see it if say it were another nabisco brand or a new product launch (kind of like what comic books did with new characters), but other brands there is a reach…

  2. MikeSchaffer says:

    @jeffespo took the words out of my mouth – I love this post. I’ve been banging the drum about linking social media to overall business goals – sales, web traffic, event attendance, etc. – instead of “Wow Factor” items, like fans, followers and RTs.
    I’ve loved the content side of Oreo’s marketing campaign – it’s been fun to watch – but 100% agree that before we praise the overall success, we need to know if at least one person bought a cookie because of it.
    The content has been designed to build a brand without any real call to action…which could turn a big win into a whole lot of nothing.

  3. arikhanson says:

    @MikeSchaffer  @jeffespo The quippy back-and-forth things are what really eat at me. And then, for an outlet like AdAge to laud praise on them for it? It’s too much. It’s simply ridiculous.

  4. kmskala says:

    My answer is yes. They really are as good as “us marketers” are thinking.
    Take a look at the body of work. The Twitter banter is just one small piece of the bigger picture. The content they are putting out is brilliant. Take a look at their Facebook page — which, by the way, has 32 million followers. 32 million. The content they put out is resonating with their audience. It’s getting shared and people are interacting with it. Yes, in the end, it always comes back to sales. And we have no way of knowing what the ROI is…but I can confidently guess that it’s had a positive impact.
    Oreo has changed the way marketers need to think — regardless of whether part of their actions are cheesy or stale. Nabisco is a huge global brand and to have the flexibility and authority to do what they’ve done is pretty impressive.
    You know why a lot of “us marketers” are questioning Oreo? We’ve gotten a sour taste because other brands are trying to copy Oreo and failing miserably. Ironically, it’s “us marketers” who are the culprits of said copying attempts.
    Oreo — I give them an A+ and think the work they are doing is brilliant.

  5. megtripp says:

    What’s funny is I know at least 4 or 5 people in my personal network who went out and bought Oreos after being reminded of them by the little exchanges Oreo was having. They hadn’t bought Oreos in years, but now they’re reminded and in possession of some. Is that a common experience? Hard to say. But it’s something. Most of my friends who work in social media for brands would have been delighted by the response if it happened to them. And social media is certainly not the only wrench in the Oreo marketing toolbox.So I don’t think the question is, “Is Oreo really the brilliant marketers everyone thinks they are?” but rather, “Is the social media marketing community continuously guilty of spazzing out every time a brand does something smart and turning it into a ‘best practice’… and then flexing backward to bash it?” Yep.Oreo doesn’t deserve to be picked apart because Mashable and Media Bistro and their ilk decided to act like Oreo had brokered peace in the Middle East. WE need to be picked apart for continuing to have the predictable “OMG GENIUS…. HEY, THEY SUCK!” back and forth with one another.

  6. jonmbauer says:

    kmskala arikhanson I agree. Though they’ve always been good. When’s the last time you’ve heard anyone mention the name Hydrox?

  7. arikhanson says:

    hriefs Your thoughts, Howard?

  8. BryanReynolds says:

    @arikhanson  @MikeSchaffer  @jeffespo Ah yes, but just because you don’t like them doesn’t mean they don’t work. Right?

  9. BryanReynolds says:

    The point here seems to be that you don’t like how much attention a marketing campaign is getting. Is that not exactly the point of a marketing campaign? People are talking about the brand, and the product, in a positive manner. I don’t see how you can label this as anything less than a stunning success.
    Are they the greatest agency ever to walk the planet? Likely not, but they certainly showed that they understand the world of social marketing, and got buy in from a very large brand to take risks. They then turned that risk into positive sentiment for the brand. 
    In what world is that not good marketing?

  10. KevinWatterson says:

    I think you nailed it. What Oreo seems to have is a person, or more likely a few people, who are extremely funny extremely quickly. That’s obviously great to have, and I love seeing that they give those people license to do it instead of constraining them. But it’s just one avenue. It’s like saying the Twins are a great ball club because Glen Perkins is a shut-down closer and ignoring questionable starting pitching and unproven rookies. 
    Personally, if I could only eat one thing ever again I might choose Oreos and a bowl of milk, but it’s not going to translate into me buying some because they are indulgeantly unhealthy and, well, I’ve got two weddings this summer to be in shape for. So.

  11. hriefs says:

    arikhanson Agree. Not brilliant. But warranted initial headlines for its first-mover status. Tired of it now, tho.

  12. ryanol says:

    They listen and respond – maybe they learned from this guy?
    If what Oreo is doing qualifies as a smashing success it speaks more about how poor the rest of the industry is doing then how well they are executing.

  13. jeffespo says:

    @BryanReynolds  @arikhanson  @MikeSchaffer Bryan if you are equating media ink with a campaign success then yes you are right. While a lot has been made of the buzz where have the impacts to sales been. I dig what they do overall and think it is a social media success (or content marketing success) but at the end of the day sales are what matters.

  14. BryanReynolds says:

    @jeffespo  @BryanReynolds  @arikhanson  @MikeSchaffer Sales are only what matter if that was the point of the campaign. There are a number of other reasons and motivations for campaigns, especially in the social space. Even if sales are the end all be all, we don’t have access to their numbers, so saying this campaign is a failure based on sales is disingenuous.

  15. arikhanson says:

    kmskala Overall, I like what they do visually. Most likely, they’re seeing success. But the Twitter stuff drives me nuts.

  16. jeffespo says:

    @BryanReynolds  @arikhanson  @MikeSchaffer I never mentioned the word failure. I, like Arik am not a fan of the whole inter-brand banter. Yes it creates and edgy, cool and relevant brand but at the end of the day everything ties back to money, even brand awareness. I’ve met some of the guys over there and know it is successful, but have yet to see if all these tweets sell more cookies.  Look Hostess had a hell of a lot of social mentions the past few months, but there are no sales.

  17. BryanReynolds says:

    @jeffespo  @arikhanson  @MikeSchaffer Hostess doesn’t have any sales because they aren’t producing any product. Has nothing to do with marketing, and everything to do with labor issues. While I agree that everything comes back to money, many brands do not. They are the client, and they get to set the metrics. 
    You say you have yet to see these tweet sell more cookies. Have you seen them sell less cookies?

  18. kmskala says:

    arikhanson Agree. Think it’s other brands trying to get some play off Oreo. Anxious to see how they evolve. What are next steps?

  19. kmskala says:

    @BryanReynolds  @jeffespo  @arikhanson  @MikeSchaffer I guess I’m confused what the point of the campaign would be if it isn’t sales? Everything comes back to $$$. Otherwise, you’re producing fluff metrics.

  20. kmskala says:

    @BryanReynolds  @jeffespo  @arikhanson  @MikeSchaffer I guess I’m confused what the point of the campaign would be if it isn’t sales? Everything comes back to $$$. Otherwise, you’re producing fluff metrics

  21. arikhanson says:

    @KevinWatterson Wait, Oreos are unhealthy? They should put that on the packaging! 🙂

  22. arikhanson says:

    @BryanReynolds Like I said, I’m not saying they haven’t seen success. Some of their content marketing is brilliant. I just take issue with labeling that quippy Twitter back-and-forth stuff as “brilliant” marketing. It’s not. It’s just great, funny writers being empowered to write funny tweets. I agree, getting the buy in from a big brand like Nabisco is no small feat–they should definitely be lauded for that. But, for creating “funny” tweets with AMC Theaters? Not so much…

  23. BryanReynolds says:

    @kmskala  @BryanReynolds  @jeffespo  @arikhanson  @MikeSchaffer Why do they have to be fluff metrics? What if the client hired you to increase followers on Facebook? What if they hired you to increase engagement with the brand? While business school likes to teach that the end all be all is sales, sometimes those sales numbers do not come in a straight line, and are not directly attributable to a marketing campaign. Does that mean the campaign did not meet its goals? It all comes down to what the client wants to do. In this case, Oreo very likely (I do not have inside knowledge) wanted to raise awareness and get people to pay attention to an old and boring brand. Ask yourself this… when was the last time you had this long of a conversation about Oreo cookies? Then tell me it didn’t work exactly how it was supposed to.

  24. BryanReynolds says:

    @arikhanson When I look at it, it comes down to one thing. Is the campaign doing what it was meant to do, and how well is it doing that? If the campaign was meant to get people talking about Oreo cookies (which seems to be the point), then it is working brilliantly.
    The brilliance is not in the simple act of interacting with another brand, but in the fact that the brands are interacting at all. Getting brands to behave in that way is outside the norm, and while it may not be the greatest thing to ever happen to mankind, it serves as a benchmark for brands and agencies. It tells brands caught up in their legal departments and group think that it can be done another way without the brand looking stupid or losing respect.
    While I fully support your right to not like it, the fact is it is working. Coupled with the fact that they are one of the first brands to do it, and the size of the brand… it all adds up to brilliance, yes.

  25. jeffespo says:

    @kmskala  come on you know they are called unicorn metrics

  26. BryanReynolds says:

    @jeffespo  @kmskala By small minded people who don’t understand the value to those metrics, sure they are. I am surprised this concept is so hard to grasp. If the client want to measure sales, you measure sales. If the client wants to measure followers, you measure followers. It is not our job as marketers to assign value to the customer driven metrics. That is their choice, and we do what they ask.

  27. jeffespo says:

    @BryanReynolds Are you calling   @kmskala and I small minded? Because you could have been more passive aggressive. At the end of the day all metrics tie back to a business goal including the fluffy unicorn ones. The value is tying it back to a business metric. While I think fans and followers are crap metrics, you can hang your hat on them. I would rather challenge the business and say hey we have X fans, X% purchase per month. We get X% engagement from this base which equates to X media consumption or X actions on my site or purchases in store. But hey then again as you said whatever your client wants….

  28. jeffespo says:

    @arikhanson  @KevinWatterson Dude the creamsicle ones have orange flavor on them so that counts as healthy…

  29. BryanReynolds says:

    @jeffespo  @kmskala I  was calling you small minded. You can challenge whatever you would like. Me, I’m going to do what my client asks me to do and continue making them happy. I would rather them be happy than me get the ego boost of telling them they need to do everything the way I think they should.

  30. arikhanson says:

    @BryanReynolds  @jeffespo  @kmskala First, I’d ask you be respectful of other commenters, Mr. Reynolds. That’s certainly not too much to ask. I respect your opinions–all I ask if you respect others’. Second, I’d like to jump in on one side issue you keep bringing up. As consultants, part of our job is NOT to do exactly what the client tells us to do. In many ways, it’s our job to offer up our counsel and opinions–sometimes that’s what they ask us to do. And other times it’s something they really don’t want to hear (which is often the case with digital marketing, which some clients don’t fully understand). So, to say our job is to “do what the client asks” is really cheapening our roles as counselors. And, I think that’s relevant to what @jeffespo  and Kasey Skala are pointing out (both of which are potential clients, by the way). Because, sometimes you have to push the client to measure what they SHOULD be measuring–not what they ASK to measure.

  31. BryanReynolds says:

    @arikhanson  @jeffespo  First, so calling someone’s work “unicorn metrics” is OK, but calling someone small minded isn’t? That doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s your house. 
    Second, I agree you can offer up counsel. But when the client says these are the metrics we want, you shut your mouth and do what they want, or you lose the business. You can pitch and spin it however you want, but if you are honest with yourself, you do what the client wants, or you get fired. Whatever else you tell yourself is ego. 
     @jeffespo is not pointing anything out other than to mock the fact that metrics other than the bottom line matter to clients. This is a reality in the social realm. As for them being potential clients, that is fine, everyone is a potential client. If he has so much respect for pushing the client, than he can take this as doing just that. It doesn’t change the fact that is is 100% wrong, and I work with clients everyday that prove that fact.

  32. jeffespo says:

    @BryanReynolds  @arikhanson Believe what you want to believe pal. I challenged the metrics and have for years… fluffy is all and good but like the unicorn very elusive when it comes to showing overall business value. 
    It is not worth getting into a junk measuring contest with you because at the end of the day commenting that “It doesn’t change the fact that is is 100% wrong, and I work with clients everyday that prove that fact.” Shows you have your ideas and are sticking to them. Good for you. I’ll stick to my track record of building a community and seeing tangible results from my work because at the end of the day that is what matters. Fans and followers are great, but if that is all they are. I’ve had discussions with executives who want a million or so fans and I note that I don’t believe in the metric. I’d rather have 200K in a community that is active, engaged and transactional than a million inactives. Fans and followers can be purchased pretty easily which is a fact. So in keeping with my buddy Arik’s wishes I will leave it at you can go have your beliefs, I’ll have mine and at the end of the day we won’t get along as you eloquently pointed out.  So good evening to you and best of luck…

  33. BryanReynolds says:

    @jeffespo  @arikhanson But I’m the one who needs to be reminded to be respectful. Right.

  34. arikhanson says:

    @BryanReynolds  @jeffespo I was just about to say that Jeff was being snarky with that unicorn metric comment and that if you follow/interact with him regularly, you know that about him (as I do). Then he went and left the comment above. Thanks, Jeff. Thanks, a lot 🙂 I’ll leave it to you two to figure things out from here.
    I’ll just say this: It’s OK for us to disagree (like we were above–essentially you and I haven’t agreed on a single thing in this stream, and that’s perfectly fine). In fact, I wish we had more constructive disagreements online. So, thanks for your input here–and I hope you’ll continue to offer it up. I just hope we can do it in a bit more productive way down the road (Jeff, I’m looking at you, too, buddy boy 🙂

  35. AdamPalmMe says:

    Their product is easier to market. They have more free range in the food and drink industry. Out of all of their competitors they’re really killing it with their marketing though.

  36. gtjhjh says:

    dick butt

  37. gtjhjh says: