MPG: What's in a 'Like'? Oreo, Facebook and the Future of Social Brands - David Puner

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Cover image for  article: MPG: What's in a 'Like'? Oreo, Facebook and the Future of Social Brands - David Puner

With the Super Bowl ad frenzy finally in subsiding churn, Oreo now turns our fragmented focus back to brands engaging on Facebook, the most popular social network (500 million users). The cookie outside: get 50,000 new Likes in one day and make the Guinness Book of World Records. The filling (stuff?): get new Facebook Likes because they're valuable. I'm going to go out on a social limb and guess Oreo doesn't really care much about the Guinness Book, but does care an awful lot about the Facebook.

For brands conducive to Facebooking, it's now past the point where they are either present on the social network or not. Now is the time for brands to step up and be something on Facebook, not just be on it. And while they may not spend Super Bowl ad bucks on their Facebook engagement, many brands like Oreo are invested, if not also investing, in their presence on the social network and are building sizable communities with increasingly formidable (potential) reach.

With more than 16.6 million Facebook Likers/Likes, Oreo clearly has benefitted from early investment on Facebook in size of following alone. So, what's the leavening agent? From cursory exploration of what Oreo's doing on Facebook to generate such a large Likebase, it appears they're respecting the space. In other words, Oreo is engaging within the space in a way that is unique to Facebook and Oreo itself—the brand experience doesn't feel like a repackaged brand site, glued together with previously woven ad copy. (Sample simple Oreo FB update: "Pop quiz: Twist, lick, then…") It helps that Oreo is Oreo—simple, fun, ubiquitous. Oreos are in most kitchen cabinets. Who doesn't like an Oreo? Conveniently, on Facebook one doesn't have to love Oreos to Like them. One cannot shower a brand with Like. And judging by the number of Oreo Likes, a lot of people Like the little snack units enough to have told all their friends (WOM! Brand affinity!) and, in turn, integrated the brand into their Facebook DNA.

Taking Oreo's lead, brands willing and able to commit to long term engagement on Facebook should snap up as many Likes as they can get now, because it's just going to get increasingly difficult or expensive (or both) to gain Likers moving forward. For a brand like Oreo, where both quality and quantity fans exist offline to begin with, it's a no-brainer to get them to click in now on Facebook.

The long term value of this still relatively early acquisition has potential to reap rewards as brands enter the social fray in earnest, en mass. Like, as meek or silly (or both) as it sounds, is going to be increasingly more difficult to secure as more brands clamor it. People Like what they like. How many brands can someone individually Like before his/her brand affinity holds little-to-no value? What becomes the user who barrages friends with commercial sentiment from brands far and wide? If someone becomes unmanageable, they get the Facebook DVR treatment—it involves hiding or unliking. Yes unliking.

With more brands clamoring for Like, Facebook users will become more selective with what they endorse with their Like. It will take more than a brand suggesting with increasing desperation that a user Like them for Like's sake. It may also take more than the promise of a taco [link:]. Then again, a taco may do the trick for a while—it just depends who's giving away the taco.

Brands will, in turn, pay more to acquire Like through the Facebook marketplace or ad API and, it follows, they will need to improve their Facebook experience so once they've got Likers aboard their Like Boat they will find reason to engage. But to what point? Should a brand's Facebook experience eclipse the actual brand experience?

It still doesn't take much to separate a brand from the pack on Facebook. Day after day, we see brands reaping recognition for executing engagement, contests, or campaigns on Facebook that, on the surface, don't seem all that extraordinary. And it makes sense, considering where we are in the history of brands on Facebook (we may be in a late stage of early adoption, but we're still in the early stages of brand engagement). Regardless of the competition for Likes, and the raging debate about how valuable Like really is, brands will continue to want to stand out here, presumably because standing out can lead to awareness, consideration, and/or (breathless) sales.

Whatever it may have cost to get where they are now on Facebook, if Oreo was just starting to build now, it would cost more. It may seem elementary, but brands stand a better chance of acquiring Facebook Like if liked offline as well. Facebook users have been eating or aware of Oreos forever. They see them every time they go into a grocery store. They see them on Facebook and Like them too.

As measurement develops and the value of brand Like becomes readily quantifiable, the relationship between brand and Facebook user will inevitably become increasingly complicated. More business, less friendship. So if you're a cookie and you want to be big on Facebook, get to it, before it's too late. Hear that, Fig Newton []? Hello?


David Puner is Director of Social Media, Havas Digital. His email is

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