Thinnovation

This past week, I was talking with the main man in charge at Mastermind Games, Mike Jarrell. He has recently released a trailer for the upcoming game, Affliction. In the midst of the conversation, Mike paused and shared his snack of choice that day. They were Oreo Thins. He commented that they had spent all those years double stuffing, and max stuffing, to come to this… half stuffing.

I don’t know if you’ve had Oreo Thins, but they are quite different. I expected just less filling, but the cookies themselves were slimmer and crisper. It actually lends itself to a different experience. Now before you wonder if I’ve gone off on a cookie-fueled foodie rant, let me ask you this question:

Are Oreo Thins an innovation?

When I stood in the cookie aisle looking for the Oreo Thins, I noticed that there were no less than 15 or so different varieties of Oreo. From different amounts of stuff to different flavors of stuff to different types of cookies. But can remixing and slight alterations to an established product really amount to innovation?

Yes… and no.

There are two types of innovation: sustaining and disruptive. Sustaining innovation is what Oreo is good at. It is slight manipulations to keep the product fresh, introduce new features or variants. Sustaining innovation goes after the existing market and strengthens their position in it. Oreo is using sustaining innovation because they are operating with a red ocean strategy. This is an ocean they are already in, competing with other snack food “sharks” in a feeding frenzy for consumer dollars.

However, there is another wide open ocean out there, a blue one where disruptive innovations could take them. Disruptive innovations take the existing flow a customer expects and breaks it in a new, exciting, and unexpected way. Oreo’s don’t seem to explore blue oceans very often, so let’s take a moment and pretend they did.

Alternate Futuristic Oreo Timeline

Remixing the same ingredients is ok for sustaining innovation, but what if you want to disrupt to cookie business?
Remixing the same ingredients is ok for sustaining innovation, but what if you want to disrupt to cookie business?

When I went to purchase the Oreo Thins for “product knowledge” I was instructed to bring home some Oreo Double Stuf as well, because that is the Official Cookie of our house. I can only imagine that across the globe, there are homes divided by their Oreo preferences. Imagine if Oreo planned to ease this tension with the Oreo Your Way. The Oreo Your Way is a pack of just the cookie wafers, all clean and crisp, and separately sealed tub of cream filling. Commercials would feature everyday people talking about how they Oreo. How much Stuf they use, the different configurations. Oreo then solidifies itself as a snack food that allows you to express yourself. The onslaught of selfies with unique Oreo combinations alone could topple servers from here to Walla Walla.

Then Oreo would take it even further. By starting with the Oreo Your Way, they’ve unlocked the whole hand-crafted, artisanal movement that has ensnared almost every other food group. This is when they unleash Oreo’s Manhattan Craftsman Biscuit. The design harkens back to Oreo’s humble beginnings in 1912. Each cookie is composed of top-quality ingredients, and assembled by cookie architects who sculpt the filling. They are artists themselves and sign each bag since each artist has their own style; a signature flair. This sleeve of cookies sells for nearly twice the traditional sleeve of Oreo’s.

And now Oreo has found two blue oceans. One where they let the customer take part in the personalized assembly of the cookie, and one that caters to the high-end and scarce, hand-crafted market. And while I enjoy a box of Oreo Thins that need some more “product research”, I will await your call Nabisco.

Challenge

  • Is your innovation a sustaining or a disruptive one?
  • How can your innovation use the red ocean strategy?
  • How can your innovation sue the blue ocean strategy?
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