A Tale of Two Cookies: Super Bowl Oreos & Dark Age Thin Mints
06 February 2013

by tmartin on February 7, 2013

COOKIES! THIS WEEK’S COOKIE TOSS-UP gives a a big win to Oreo and a Dark Ages award to the Girl Scouts.

In case you don’t follow advertising trends or perhaps fell into the minority who didn’t use social media throughout SuperBowl  XLVII, Oreo scored it big when it seized an opportunity to turn the game’s power blackout into a sure-to-be-cited advertising history moment.

For 34 minutes during the year’s most overhyped football game/high profile advertising venue, the New Orleans Superdome went dark – literally.  Electric provider Entergy says a line from the power substation to the stadium flagged an “abnormality” and automatically shut off power at 7:37 pm central time.

Oreo, one of the game’s advertisers, had put its social media agency on high alert during the event. Tasked with responding in real time to whatever might occur, the 15-person creative team did just that when it tweeted:

Power out? No problem.

And then attached an image of an Oreo cookie peeping out of the shadows with the tag line:

You Can Still Dunk in the Dark

The virtual crowds went wild!  In short order, Oreo’s message appeared all over Twitter, on Facebook, and subsequently the main stream media.

Which should not be surprising. According to  SuperBowl advertiser, Century 21 Real Estate, which surveyed about 3000 people before the game in order to better understand viewing preferences, virtual commentary settles right now in the easy chair with real time cheering and snack plates.

The company found that cozying up in front of a big screen TV at home with family and friends was the number one game essential. In addition, 52% also said they’d be using social media during  the game to talk to others about both game and commercials.

Thus, through a combination of event awareness  and clever fast-on-its-feet creative, Oreo was as big a game winner as the Ravens.

Meanwhile, in another cookie jar, the Girl Scouts annual cookie sale is underway. The pre-teen and young teen sales force behind this annual fundraiser and its iconic cookie brands (Thin Mints!) have, of, course, taken to their natural, digital, medium.

Marketing blog SteamFeed interviewed 11-year old Emma, whose online outreach could teach the other SuperBowl advertisers a thing or two.  Emma chatted about her efforts to sell cookies that could be sent to the troops overseas as well as her YouTube video and Twitter outreach. Like everything else digital, PayPal provided a natural payment processing channel for her efforts.

Girl Scouts of America responded to the interview:

Emma! We watched your video. This is what Girl Scouts is all about! You’re doing something great and we couldn’t be prouder!

But then … then … the girl’s local council of the Girl Scouts trumped that perky tweet by issuing the equivalent of a cease and desist order. Apparently, in Girl Scout land, the only  legal tender allowed takes the form of cash or check.

The national Girl Scouts  then backpedalled and said that girls can market cookies online, but can’t transact the sale digitally because, as it it tweeted:

That must happen in person to build oh so-important people skills.

Unverified social media comments blame this about-face to complaints from a jealous mother whose own daughter was losing out in the race to sell the most cookies. Who knows? Personally, I find the whole race to sell the most cookies tiresome, but that’s another issue entirely!

Regardless of the trigger, the Girl Scout held firm. Policy, the organization repeated, says that a girl herself must directly hand over the cookies and directly take a check or cash payment.

Really? I’m guessing that all the parents who sell Girl Scout cookies at work would be surprised to learn that one! As would their apparently “not in policy” customers. Not to mention given that the rise of smart wallets, along with an array of digital mobile and online purchasing tools, doesn’t the idea that touching a dollar bill or a check provides some critical skills seems a bit, hmm, 1970s?

Young Emma was “asked” to stop the digital sales or her ability to sell anything would be shut down.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I wouldn’t have let my kid go door to door. Willy Loman died a long time ago … and a large percent of today’s consumer business transactions happen online. Heck, one might even say that Emma’s online efforts  themselves formed  a sort of digital door-to-door process.  For failing to understand that, the Girl Scouts organization gets the Dark Ages of Commerce award for the week.

Speaking of sales, Twitter certainly understands the power of its own self – and this week announced it was acquiring Bluefin Labs of Cambridge for what Bloomberg reports to be $100 million.

Bluefin, whose software analyzes brands on Twitter (and whose tracking of election events appear in an October column here – http://www.capeeyes.com/2012/10/parsing-the-crowd/) was probably not at all surprised by Oreo and its SuperBowl strategy.

Indeed, the startup company’s underpinning philosophy is that TV drives conversation and today’s conversation happens on Twitter and in other social media channels.  So it only follows that if brand managers can track what people say on Twitter about shows and commercials, they have the basis for whole new category of analytical tools.

During the SuperBowl, Bluefin measured comments in a 45-minute time window after each SuperBowl ad aired. It reports that it counted 3.9M social media comments about this year’s Super Bowl commercials – representing a 225% increase last year’s SuperBowl.

The entire SuperBowl event, including the game itself, generated a total of 30.6M social media comments, with 27.7 million of those on Twitter, 2.8 million on Facebook, and 108 thousand from GetGlue checkins.

Suddenly Twitter’s $100M purchase tag for Bluefin starts looking like a pretty good way to monetize its own service.

Who knows, maybe next year’s SuperBowl will find a whole new category of advertising, priced per tweet? I wouldn’t want to bet one way or another on that, but I am willing to take a guess on two other things: Oreo will be there … and Thin Mints won’t.

In this tale of two cookies, the once slightly-dowdy Oreo has just sprung to the future, leaping ahead of its minty cousin. And the Girl Scouts have shown that their future vision lies mired in the last century.

And so I’m left with only one certainty. All this talk of cookies has me hungry!

And for that I’ll turn to the decidedly low-tech, Twitterless homemade chocolate chip oatmeal treat, branded, followed, and liked by nothing more digital or global than my kitchen stove.

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