Sunday, January 29, 2012

58: the last 'oops' and rethinking the oreo

My last post was a semi-apology, a semi-update, and a semi-promise-to-post-new-content all wrapped up in one. I wrote it in July 2011, and now it's nearing the end of January 2012.

Oops. Again.

But this time I completely promise that this post will feature my last "oops, sorry I forgot to update" because there's lots going on in the world of brand, marketing, advertising, user experience, creative, digital, and more (look at all those buzz words!), and I want you to hear about it and to marvel with me.

So there's that.

Now that I'm done with announcements for the time being, I want to leave you with a story recently featured on NPR's Planet Money. It's called "Rethinking The Oreo For Chinese Consumers," and it's a prime example of rewiring a household brand and snack/cookie/treat (depending on what kind of consumer you are!) to fit another culture's usage behaviors and eating habits.

If there's one thing I've learned from: (1) my travels abroad in Taiwan, China, the UK, and Europe; (2) as an Information Science minor interested in the art and science of user experience; and (3) through my prior research experience at the Communication Department at Cornell... it's that you can't just "transliterate" words or ideas or products from one culture to another. Meanings get lost -- remember that urban legend about the Chevy Nova and how it no va ("doesn't go")? -- and tastes get confused. In an increasingly connected world, you really do need a deep understanding of the cultural and business environment in which you are going to operate.

In Kraft's case, the Oreo team in China had to reconsider what the Oreo cookie really is. Is the Oreo cookie all about the flavor? (Chinese consumers found it too sweet and too bitter.) Is it about the round circular shape? The black and white color? The Oreo team essentially had to identify the classic features of the Oreo cookie and figure out whether they even matter when considering international markets.

From the American standpoint, the Oreo cookie is a nostalgic, emotional experience. You have the ritual: "Twist, lick, and dunk." And it resonates with us. But it's kind of a weird thing. I mean, scraping off the cream with your teeth? Um... ew. (And yum at the same time! I can haz all teh Oreos plz?) How do you sell this quirky American thing to Chinese consumers?

According to the Oreo team, you use emotional advertising, apparently. With the help of Draftfcb, you get cute Chinese kids partaking in this weird American thing, and next thing you know, you've got sales skyrocketing and a very happy Kraft Foods.

Ah, the intersection of consumer behavior, market research, culture, branding, and marketing. Don't you love it?!

Next time: Some thoughts on Yum! Brands and KFC and their perfect egg custard tarts. Le swoon.

(via NPR and Kraft Foods)