Oreo image goes viral, offering lessons in branding

To mark its 100th anniversary, Oreo is posting an image a day for 100 days. A recent picture marking the Mars Rover landing achieved viral gold. Here are the takeaways.

A picture of an Oreo cookie has more than 20,000 “likes” on Facebook.

This is no ordinary cookie. It’s red and has a pair of tire tracks running through the delicious cream filling. Oreo and its ad agency created the image to commemorate the historic Mars Rover landing.

If social media users could do more than “like” it—if they could love it—they probably would. Not only has the image garnered thousands of shares, but it has also attracted attention from media outlets as varied as Mashable and the Baltimore Sun.

PR and marketing professionals think it’s a brilliant extension of the brand.

“The Rover [image] was absolutely awesome—a home run,” says Jason Mollica, president of JRMComm, a social media, PR, and marketing consultancy. “For a brand, you can’t ask for any better. If I’m a PR person, I’m looking at how my brand can mirror that.”

Brands can steal a page from Oreo’s book.

Tapping the Zeitgeist

The Mars Rover picture is part of an effort called The Daily Twist that Nabisco-owned Oreo launched June 25 to mark the cookie’s 100th birthday. The brand plans to share an image of an Oreo every day for the next 100 days on its Facebook page, a dedicated Tumblr account, and a page on the Nabisco website.

DraftFCB, the ad agency working with Oreo on the project, explained the gist of the project in a blog post: “The Daily Twist taps into pop culture, but with an Oreo twist … [it] is a real-time reflection of a trending topic.”

The inaugural image certainly tapped the Zeitgeist—and stirred up controversy—when the brand turned its creamy filling into a rainbow in honor of Gay Pride Month.

As promised, follow-up cookies have looked to pop culture for inspiration, including Oreos marking Bastille Day, Chicago’s Lollapalooza music fest, the opening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and, of course, the Olympics.

Each of these cookies has attracted thousands or even tens of thousands of “likes” on Facebook. With the Mars Rover Lands cookie, Oreo has struck viral gold again.

“It’s visual storytelling done well,” says Becky Johns, account executive for agency communications at Cramer-Krasselt. “Not only are the designs simple and beautiful, but when viewed as a group they are reminders that a product can seamlessly represent many ideas.”

Molina adds: “Oreo is such an iconic brand. They’ve taken it a step further and reached a new generation by going into things that are in the news.”

How can your brand do it?

Most companies don’t sell cookies, or even products that lend themselves to such inventive visual representations. Still, brands of all stripes can mirror Oreo’s efforts by thinking like a media outlet.

“This is the epitome of the brand as media outlet,” says Jackson Wightman of Proper Propaganda. “Someone has to create it—someone has to pump it out every day.”

Wightman (who is also a PR Daily contributing editor) would know. He launched a group blogging effort to promote the Montreal store he opened with his wife. The project featured one new blog post a week from a different person, each writing on the intersection of food and life in Montreal. It was a success—leading to exposure and media coverage for the store—and Wightman has gone on to lead group blogging efforts for other companies.

Like Oreo, small and large brands alike can create content on a daily or weekly basis that draws inspiration from pop culture. The content can be an image, a blog post, or a combination of the two shared through a Tumblr account. The key is to make sure the posts or images are updated regularly and relevant to audiences.

Wightman says the reality of such an undertaking—whether it’s a group blog or 100 pictures in 100 days—is that they are immensely valuable, but tough to administer.

“It requires process,” says Wightman. “You start with an editorial calendar that clearly shows when content will be posted and by whom.

“If you have multiple contributors, you have to brief them on the spirit of the project. You need to clearly explain what you need from them.”

If you’re not as widely known as Oreo, you had better promote it. Start by tapping the people who are contributing to the effort.

“If other people are creating the content, tell them you need help promoting it,” Wightman explains. They can share the posts with their social media following, thus increasing the reach of your brand.

Brands also need a promotion calendar to organize how they share their content on social media, Wightman says. For example, they should determine when to tweet a link to the post and when to share it on Facebook or other social media sites.

You might not attract the tens of thousands of “likes” Oreo has gained from its Daily Twist, but there’s a good chance your effort could lead to a larger audience, more media exposure, and even a jump in the number of leads.

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