Brand recognition vs. Exclusivity

All of these are brands that have an Oreos product on their menu: Baskin Robbins, Burger King, Dairy Queen, Dunkin’ Donuts, Jack In The Box, McDonalds, etc. Drawing in a large audience means finding items with mass recognition and appeal. Oreos has done a great job over the past decade of growing recognition and revising their brand appeal through quirky messages and tone largely on social media platforms.

Media fragmentation has made it hard for impatient brands to build products as quickly as they want. Stunts like the Unicorn Frappuccino or mass media vehicles like Shark Tank are some of the ways brands try to break through.

Oreos’ high awareness makes them an idea partner for product or LTOs. People’s recognition of the name sets expectations for the flavor and experience of the product. This make the product appealing for consumers and for brands in need of hits.

The Oreos logo or the distinctive cookie on the menu board or in a TV tag is certainly a positive. The question is how many different menu boards can have that logo before consumers feel the product is no longer different. Differences, even subtle ones, are what drive favorability and preference for consumers. Jack in the Box new use of flavored ‘butters’ is a good example.

As you can see, the Oreo trend is probably going to be successful for each of these brands. It will ultimately be more successful for Mondelez as they grow awareness and preference for Oreos.

Top QSR menus have plenty of similarities, they are nearly standardized. Hamburgers, french fries, chicken sandwiches, salads and shakes. Burger King has made strides in growth by finding novel takes on these standards going all the way back to onion rings, but including Chicken Fries and the addition of hot dogs. Jack in the Box has focused on the ‘munchie’ set with their tacos and late night special combo offers.

For either brand an LTO is the way to create difference and (hopefully) traffic. Oreo has proven to be a brand that generates interest from consumers; whether to retailers with unique flavor varieties or product partnerships like these QSR LTOs. It is strategically sound to add such a differentiator to the menu as an LTO. Look at the success Sriracha has had in its own partnership and licensing deals.

Oreos, LTO, QSR
Oreos, Oreos everywhere!

But it is less clear whether there is any advantage to having a ‘me too’ product. Once Burger King launches an Oreo product, Jack in the Box should be pursuing other ingredient partners or LTOs altogether. The attention Oreo provides will be there in a diminished capacity.

McDonald’s has its successful McCafe line and its powerful $1 beverage offer that drives value. The Oreo offer for them probably works best to fend off the challengers by eliminating differences in the dessert or beverage category.
The biggest and most visited restaurant chain has made the Oreo shake a standard.

Going back to Sriracha, their rise to near omnipresence on menu boards (and as a flavor additive in CPG products) was inarguably better for their brand than for any of their partners. Having a Sriracha flavored item on the menu became an expectation, not a surprise and delight it was originally, for consumers.

As you can see, the Oreo trend is probably going to be successful for each of these brands. It will ultimately be more successful for Mondelez as they grow awareness and preference for Oreos. The impressions the brand receives through LTO promotion by QSRs is a huge value, though certainly factored into the licensing negotiations.

If there is one way both brands could expand the benefit of partnership or continue to create differentiation it would be to add alternate Oreos flavors to LTOs in lieu of the original flavor. At least one brand has a Golden Oreo variety in some markets. If exclusive, this is a way to get the benefit of Oreos’ awareness and the exclusivity needed to break through parity.