Happy Birthday to One Smart Cookie

Today we celebrate the 100th birthday of the Oreo, a beloved cookie and an 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 the other 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 test 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 were 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 Although reminiscent of Coke's 1985 reformulation blunder, abandonment of the classic recipe was never repealed.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 long life by consistent and clever marketing. A visit to www.nabiscoworld.com/oreo/birthday shows why.

Celebrating 100 years, Oreo is one smart cookie.

What does this have to do with health care, you might ask. Smart marketing has everything to do with longevity and success in branding. Besides, you just took a healthy break with some Oreos without adding a single calorie to your diet.

— Tom DeSanto

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