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Oreo's Strange Flavors: Is it good Marketing?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

We've all seen the disgusting Oreo flavors and wondered how on earth it could be a good marketing strategy. I was under the impression that the development of new flavors would be more research intensive and expensive than it'd be worth, but it seems to be paying off for them.


According to the senior director of Oreo, Justin Parnell, novelty Oreos increase sales by 12% but also increase the sales of regular Oreos by 22%. What could be the reasons behind this?

oreo flavors marketing

Oreo's Strange Flavor Marketing Creates Scarcity


In their classic 1975 study, Adewole, Lee and Worchel surveyed participants on which cookies were most valuable: a jar with 2 cookies, or a jar with 10 cookies. The results were overwhelmingly that the cookies in the jar of 2 were more valuable.

Scarcity can come in many forms. Oreo chooses to make their weird flavors limited edition, which creates a form of urgency because they may not be available next time. For example, temporal urgency can as much as double email conversions.


Wasabi, Swedish fish, and Hot Chicken Wing Oreos absolutely should not exist.

Similar abominations include Matcha Oreos, Limeade, Jelly Donut, Hot and Spicy Cinnamon, Cherry Cola, and more.


Geomarketing to Cater to Different Markets


Wasabi was in Japan, Tiramisu was in Korea, kind of in line with how McDonald's has different product offerings in other countries to better cater to local tastes. However, I would say what Oreo did was a little bit different, because I'm not sure that Wasabi Oreos are anyone's taste.


Besides "adjusting" to other countries' markets by coming up with unique flavors related to particular locales, Oreo does their research and also makes more reasonable changes to make their product more popular. For example, based on feedback in China, Oreo made their Oreos less sweet for that market, which led to an increase in sales.


Constant Innovating and Creating Buzz


They don't rest on their laurels and are constantly innovating. Keeping things fresh and giving your consumers something to talk about is always a good idea.


For example, I have sent photos of Jelly Donut Oreos to my brother. It was because I was genuinely freaked out, but nonetheless, brand reminds are a great way of getting consumers to buy more. According to a Lucidpress survey of 200 brands, "consistent presentation of a brand increases revenue by 23% on average. By presenting your brand consistently, over time, consumers will internalize your brand values and be more likely to purchase."


I can totally see someone walking down an aisle at CVS, seeing Jelly Donut Oreos, and thinking, "That's really strange, ew. What is wrong with normal Oreos? Why mess with a good thing? Regular Oreos are good as they are..." and now they're thinking about how Oreos are good.


Oreo's Social Media Marketing


Not only has Oreo's flavors created buzz, they have also aced the social media marketing game.


Community Values are a great target to go after in today's society, as 64% of people say the main determinant of whether or not they trust a brand is whether they have shared values in common. With so many choices of cookies in the world, you want to buy from a brand that makes you feel good.


For Oreo's 100th anniversary, they launched creative social posts for 100 days commemorating events that occurred throughout their history. These images were simple, creative, interesting, and aesthetically appealing. In addition, the posts were designed to inspire user engagement.


oreo ad

For example, this Batman post could get people talking about the upcoming movie, while the Pride post showed social support which received tremendous community engagement.


Oreo was a part of this campaign, but they were not the main focus, making the posts more interesting and appear less self-serving. The latter is important because according to a Buzzstream survey, "45% of consumers will unfollow a brand if their activity is dominated by self-promotion." For example, a post about how good Oreos are is not very exciting, kind of self-centered, and probably not going garner much engagement. Posts about new nasty flavors will probably get engagement, but a lot of the feedback will be negative, and it's also not reasonable to launch new flavors every day to keep up a social media cadence. This 100 day campaign, however, was interesting and inspired engagement without tooting their own horn too much. You were reminded about Oreos, but it was a more positive experience than normal product posts.


Why Oreo's Marketing Works


Oreo's strange flavor marketing works: they are the number one cookie brand in the world. Oreo's weird flavors create buzz and brand conversations. They also create scarcity and a sense of urgency. They aren't self-obsessed and they care about social causes, making them likable and more trustworthy. In addition, Oreo caters to different markets and cares about what their consumers want (besides some of those crazy flavors that nobody asked for. Nobody.).

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