Package Alterations

Oreo Package Instructions
Oreo Package Instructions

While opening a package of Oreos the other day, I came across their explicit instructions, “Open With Pull Tab on Top!” It made me wonder how the company came to the decision to change the packaging.

The Impetus. First, I have to wonder what initially prompted them to consider swapping the traditional tear-open side for the pull-tab top. I assume there was some customer feedback indicating that the traditional opening method was frustrating. But how did they collect that? Did they conduct a focus group to ask, “How could we improve the Oreo experience?”, and several panelists suggested altering the package? Maybe they used survey, with specific questions about the Oreo packaging. Or, maybe they used observation in their daily lives, noticing that every time they had to open and close a package of Oreos, they were annoyed with the process. Whatever, the discovery, I think packaging is a natural place to look for updates if the product is relatively successful. Oreo has made some product changes by introducing Double Stuff and other creme flavors, but there’s little room for improvement on the product itself. Thus, the Oreo experience might be improved by making the package easier to open and close.

The Convincing. After making the discovery that the packaging should be changed, I have to wonder how the marketing or design genius convinced Oreo to invest in the new packaging. The company would have to tweak their machines, inks, and presses, to accommodate the new design, so there was definitely some money involved in making the update. Maybe they used one of the focus groups or survey data to show that customers would enjoy the Oreo experience more. Maybe they made a prototype and let the decision-makers try it out for themselves. Somehow, the responsible parties had to make the case that this change was necessary and beneficial for growth.

The Impact. After making the discovery and convincing the bosses to make the change, I’m wondering how they’re measuring the impact to show that the alterations have added value. Are they just measuring sales and volume growth? Did they repeat the surveys and focus groups? Marketers usually have a hard time measuring their impact, since there are so many different variables. I don’t recall a new campaign to praise the new packaging, but a lot of products run new commercials or ads when they alter the packaging. Thus, it begs the question: was it the packaging that increased sales, or the new ad campaign that increased sales? The timing of the release can also have an impact, so it’s hard to give numbers on the actual impact of just the packaging alteration. How do they know that the time and money spent to research, develop, and launch the new packaging was worth it?

I’d love to be a fly on the wall during Oreo’s decision to make this packaging update. I think there are a lot of elements involved in creating a superior Oreos experience, and I find the steps to tweaking these elements to be fascinating. Am I the only Marketing nerd who thinks this would be a fun case study? 🙂

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