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A Study in Food Branding: The Rise of the Oreo


At Octonano, we love all angles of branding, from fashion, to real estate, to personal branding. However, there’s one specific area of branding that we want to unpack today: that is, food branding. Specifically, we’re studying the brilliant branding behind the OREO cookie, and what made it the beloved household snack it is today.


Being one of the U.S.’s oldest brands – the full history of the Oreo brand dates back to the 1890s in Kansas City, Missouri, where it was born from a bakery business rivalry between two brothers – it’s certainly worth taking a deeper dive into how the brand has not only survived over the years but evolved with the times and remained a staple in American pantries today. Below, we’ve outlined the top three factors that have earned the cookie its current success.


Recognizability

From the sky-blue packaging to the black and white layers of the cookie itself, Oreo is a brand that is recognizable at the quickest glance. This recognizability is in part helped by the brand’s commitment to their color story in all visual assets essentially since its conception, to the point that nearly all Americans can recognize two black circles and one white one as the two chocolate cookies and cream filling. As a result of the familiarity Oreo tends to invoke, the brand then remains firmly lodged in the packaged food market as a trusted brand of reliable quality and flavor. Plus, all Oreos contain no animal products, making them a safe vegan option.


Product Variations

With that said, Oreo’s recognizability and trusted brand status make it a perfect canvas for variations and derivatives from the classic cookie. Over the years, these have included the iconic (and patented) “Cookies n’ Cream” ice cream flavor, more experimental territory with crowd-sourced flavor ideas like kettle corn and piña colada, and successful cross-promotional campaigns through collaborations with other brands such as Ritz or the streetwear brand Supreme. Not only do these various flavor spin-offs keep Oreo’s engagement high between the brand and the consumers (kettle corn and piña colada were the winning flavors of a 2016 competition that received over 500,000 submissions), they also keep Oreo within the broader cultural conversation. After all, who could forget the Lady Gaga Chromatica Oreo craze of 2021?


Strong Brand Persona

Finally, Oreo has always maintained a clear, distinct brand voice and identity in all of its branded materials, from the copy, to the graphics, to the activations, Oreo keeps its brand persona clean, clever, and fun on all fronts. For instance, Oreo’s more mundane branded materials (such as a standard instagram caption) will strike the same tone as their more elaborate activations, such as the Wonder Vault Campaign, in which 10,000 golden tickets were hid Willy Wonka-style inside random packages for lucky finders to visit the Oreo Wonder Vault in NYC. The brand also ensures that they communicate directly with customers via social media, through responding directly to users with breezy yet helpful replies.


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