Jul 22, 2009

Symbolize Your Success: A Lesson From Nabisco

Business launch quiz of the month:

Q: What does a circle, a cross, and a four-leaf clover have in common?

A: They are the symbols held within the design on top of every OREO cookie sold.

To date, human beings have eaten over 18 billion Nabisco Biscuit Company OREO cookies. Clearly, Oreo cookies are a success, by any standard.

Does the recipe of the creme filled chocolate biscuits matter? Sure. But how about the symbols they chose on each cookie?

I recently read an article by Tima Vlasto (The Examiner), published July 14, 2009, that digs into a possible holistic secret to Nabisco's success with Oreo cookies. Tima claims the Oreo name, which possibly means "mound" or "beauty and goodness" surrounded by symbols of "infinity and unity" and the communication cross perhaps a "communicating a crusade" of "good luck" to each person who shares the fun.

I actually have another viewpoint on this important logo, which is originally comprising a cross-shape with two bars of unequal lengths (shaped in a pyramid) atop an elliptical-shaped circle.

First of all, Nabisco promotional materials (from Nabisco's website, according to Wikipedia) claimed that the logo represented "an early European symbol for quality; it may be derived from a medieval Italian printer's mark that represented 'the triumph of the moral and good over the evil and worldly.'"

You'll notice this logo of the double cross, with different lengths on cross-bars, and the circle, is in the Oreo cookie, but Nabisco replaces the word NABISCO with OREO in the middle of the Oreo cookie. But let's take a closer look.

First, the name OREO. According to the article by Wikipedia, the origins of the name can be traced to "gold" and yes, "hill or mound" and the Greek word OREO, which means "beautiful" or "nice'. So, the name offers a positive connotation.

Second, the circle, which surrounds the name Oreo. In the article, Tima mentions that a circle is a symbol of unity. That's nice, but when I study logos, I've always maintained that circles indicate change. In fact, the very shape of Oreo cookies is round, therefore, indicating you'll be changed by eating one.

But, digging deeper in studying circles, I found an interesting image:

In this 13th century image, you find the act of creation symbolized by the circle (as a compass). Keep in mind, this is an era where icons definitely held meaning for believers. There is also a pattern shaped almost like a mandala contained within the compass. I also noticed the halo, also shaped like a circle. So, the circle can have many mystical meanings, including change, circle of life, creation, and so on. A circle may also mean infinity.

The Patriarchal Orthodox cross, a symbol of holy Jesus, or the cross of Lorraine, an early symbol dating to Joan of Arc, became incorporated into the cookie as part of Nabisco's logo in the 1950's, some thirty to forty years after the original cookie was created to offer the British a more exciting cookie to dip in their coffee or tea. The symbol as I evaluate it means 'perseverance" which can certainly be said of both Nabisco (through Kraft) and Oreo cookies. They've been around now for a hundred years! It could also mean holy, as in saintly, but I wouldn't go that far as to say I'm a saint for eating a box of double-stuffs!

Then again, a conspiracy theorist's interpretation of that cross is the "Pontifical Cross of Lucifer which is linked with Satanism and [apparently] possibly Freemasonry" which is possibly partly true. Another video I've seen says Oreo cookies are "illuminati cookies" and shows the symbols of the crosses and connects them to masonic ceremonies. Upon my understanding of the bankers that rule this world, this assertion is possibly quite correct, as the founder of Nabisco was said to be a member of a banking family connected to the Rothchild family. However, the pontifical cross is equal-length bars and second, that cross is not necessarily representative of Lucifer, either. An analysis of cross symbols brings up religion and occult so that connection is suspect.

You could say a cross represents evil because so many heavy metal bands use crosses as "reverse" imagery today. However, I dispute that theory, as the particular cross on the Oreo is the Patriarchal Cross, which is the cross of the Orthodox church, a holy symbol. And, yes, although many of the founding fathers in America were said to be Freemasons it would have been popular for a business leader to join that organization, too.

The Freemason connection could mean that the founder of Nabisco was a Freemason and therefore plugged into the "big business" establishment of his day. Therefore, they were putting a symbol on their cookie to show they were part of the "in" crowd with the establishment, too. Big business is, well, big business for a reason. Looking at the clover and inverted clover patterns on the cookie, it is clearly possible that the "reverse clover" design on the cookie is actually a masonic symbol of the "Maltese cross" shown in this link. What relevance that has with eating a cookie is, well, questionable. Perhaps it was simply good for business?

The four-leaf clover is a symbol of good luck and definitely considered a rare find. However, there is a deeper meaning as I examine each petal, historically, represented hope, faith, love, and luck. I like that meaning even more. So, in eating each cookie, you could really hope to have the very best in life, right?

Last, a circle can represent unity. But a circle also represents "change" of some sort. So, by eating an Oreo cookie, you can expect the unity of perseverance, beauty, hope, faith, love, and luck, and hopefully to be changed by eating one.

I would say Nabisco was trying to combine symbols of holy, good, luck, business success, and health into their cookie, by evaluating all of the symbols used by them on this small wafer sandwich.

It is fun to study symbols. If you haven't studied symbols before creating your own business logo, I strongly encourage you to do so. Or, hire an expert to help you understand what symbols might best represent your own organization or product.

I've always loved Oreo cookies. And, as you know, with our Diamond-Circle model, ARRiiVE is on our own crusade to change the way business is done in the world - from a numbers, top-down oriented approach, to a holistic, inside-out approach in how we manage people. We're finding in the companies we help launch that the model works quite well when implemented properly. Find out for yourself: contact us to learn how to implement the Diamond-Circle model in your business.

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  1. The Maltese Cross instead of the four-leaf clover possibility is very interesting. The Freemason reference is so very possible. It so cool how my article sparked a small MEME and you took it so much further. Love how ideas travel on the www. Thank you for taking this idea further and doing so much research.

    Tima Vlasto

  2. Hi Tima, I'm so happy to see your positive comment here. I LOVE your column. So, yeah, you sparked me on this one! I like to study logos and had not studied Nabisco yet, so once I started I couldn't help myself!

    BTW, I also publish AspireNow.com, something that might be up your alley. Keep up the great work!

    Scott Andrews
    ARRiiVE Business Solutions