The Strategy Wonk Blog
Posted on: March 06, 2012
by Tom DeSanto, Strategy Wonk
Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of the Oreo®, a beloved cookie and iconic American brand.
But did you know that the Oreo was preceded in the marketplace by a remarkably similar cookie called the Hydrox? In 1908, the fledgling Sunshine Biscuit Company launched Hydrox, which rapidly became its flagship product.
Hydrox would have celebrated its 100th birthday in 2008. Instead, its obituary ran in the Wall Street Journal: “The Hydrox Cookie is Dead and Fans Won’t Get Over It.” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120069573721101481.html)
Why is one cookie in the grave and another is a healthy centenarian?
Was Oreo the superior product?
Arguably not. Hydrox cookies had a loyal following. One review stated that Hydrox had a “tangy, less-sweet filling and a crunchier cookie that stood up better to milk.” In a taste tasted conducted by Advertising Age in Manhattan in 1988, the final score was Hydrox 29, Oreo 16.
Two major product differences stand out among the cookie contenders. Hydrox contained no lard and was granted kosher certification. The Oreo contained lard and was granted U.S. Patent #0093009.
Many marketing pundits believe the real difference in longevity can be attributed to Nabisco’s superior marketing muscle and distribution capability. In the battle for market share, Hydrox never really had a chance.
A number of marketing missteps also led to Hydrox’s demise. In 1991, the Hydrox brand was revamped and represented by a character named Drox. Unfortunately, Drox soon bit the dust because he too closely resembled the Pillsbury Doughboy. Pillsbury sued and won.
In 1996, Hydrox cookies were reformulated with added sweetness and renamed "Droxies" to increase their appeal among children. Although reminiscent of Coke’s 1985 reformulation blunder, abandonment of the classic recipe was never repealed. The once-famous Hydrox cookie slipped into oblivion by 2003. A brief reprise occurred in 2008.
And then kaput.
Happy Birthday to Oreo, a great product given a long life by consistent and clever marketing. A visit to http://www.nabiscoworld.com/oreo/birthday shows why.
Celebrating 100 years, Oreo is one smart cookie.
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