Quick: what image comes to mind when I say "Oreo"? The sweet round cookie with a creamy center that you dunk in milk?
Apparently, that's not the image that comes to mind in China: The iconic cookie is a long,
think thick, four-layered water wafer coated in chocolate... and it's not so sweet. Here's why:
Oreos were first introduced in 1912 in the U.S., but it wasn't until 1996 that Kraft introduced Oreos to Chinese consumers. Nine years later, a makeover began. Shawn Warren, a 37-year-old Kraft veteran who had spent many years marketing the company's cookies and crackers around the world, arrived in Asia in 2005 and noticed that Oreo's China sales had been flat for the previous five years.
Back then, Kraft was selling the U.S. version of Oreos in China. Albert Einstein's definition of insanity -- doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results -- "characterized what we were doing," says Mr. Warren, vice president of marketing for Kraft Foods International. [...]
Mr. Warren assigned his team to a lengthy research project that yielded some interesting findings. For one thing, Kraft learned that
traditional Oreos were too sweet for Chinese tastes.
Here's an interesting article by Julie Jargon of The Wall Street Journal on how food giant Kraft finally got nimble by trusting local managers: Link - via Beyond Madison Avenue