Business Owners: Why You Need to Remember the Name Hydrox

In our never ending search for marketing winners and losers, we listed off the businesses beaten down by the competition – some of them had it bad from the start; some of them never learned to capitalize on their wins; others, just got beat, plain and simple.

Like all cautionary tales, these stories of legacy and loss all have some sort of lesson – some that could be helpful for your business.

So we broke down three cases where a business (or creative) had a unique, marketable product and was overtaken by a competitor. To begin with, we’re diving in with milk’s favorite cookie:

The Fall of Hydrox

hydrox ad
Classic Film / Flickr

Hydrox was birthed way back in 1908 and it was a genius snack product from the start: crispy chocolate biscuit, imprinted with flowers and mashed over a creamy, white filling.

Sound familiar?

That’s right, my much beloved Oreo was not, in fact, the original cookies and cream. Oreos didn’t take shape for another four years, in 1912, by rival manufacturer Nabisco. That is when the battle for snack superiority took shape.

In one corner, we have Hydrox – the original, the innovator. And while it screamed proudly, ‘WE WERE HERE FIRST!’ it always was the underdog. From the name alone, the snack sounds less like something I’d want to eat and more like something I’d clean my shower with when deep-set stains refuse to budge. If he were alive at the time, Billy Mays could’ve been the product’s saving grace, pulling out late night commercials to keep us both hungry and entertained.

Alas, he was not alive, and his expertise in selling chemical solutions went unrealized.

Hydrox fell to Oreos, despite the latter brand’s struggle with removing lard from it’s creme-filling and playing catch-up to the original brand.

Lesson #1: Business isn’t just about your product, or your service, or how many five star ratings you have on Google. If you aren’t building your business with a single, coherent message – one that doesn’t leave a chemical aftertaste in your mouth – then an Oreo is bound to sneak up and swallow you whole.

Social Media Succession

We work with social media quite a bit. It’s a big world, one that’s always changing and always growing. It’s important to know where the roots of that world lie – so let’s take a trip back to 2003:

Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor of California. Apple launched iTunes. Aaragorn took his place as King, uniting middle-Earth under the righteous rule of men! And Friendster kicked off the social media revolution.  

Not as cool as the finale of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but still cool.


Friendster exploded onto the internet scene with an initial valuation of 53 million dollars in 2003. But the site was plagued with problems that kept it from evolving as quickly as their rivals.

Upstarts like MySpace copied their formula for success. Friendster failed to fix software issues, hamstringing it’s own growth. Lots of people flooded to the platform, but when they got there, login times took an eternity because the site’s infrastructure wasn’t built for that amount of traffic. Competitors were able to come in with a better functioning version of the same product and win.

Lesson #2: In the wise words of David Ogilvy, “Great marketing only makes a product fail faster.” And we’ll let it sit there, because we couldn’t say it better ourselves.

After the fall of Friendster, MySpace took control of the social media market, but the dogfight for dollars never ended. Our boy Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004 to a firing line of lawsuits. When the gunsmoke and court cases settled, Zuckerberg was already clawing his way to the top of the heap.

At its peak in 2006, MySpace had 100 million users. If you’re wondering how it’s fared since, check it out.

But why Facebook? Is it just the luck of the draw that they’ve built a base of 1.5 billion daily users, or is there something to be learned from their rise to the top of social media supremacy?

Forbes did a write-up of just that back in 2011, when the MySpace mourning was still fresh and it’s bones hadn’t been buried too deep in internet archives, yet. Facebook’s victory wasn’t because of the site’s clean user interface. It wasn’t because MySpace customization options made every user profile so garrish and neon that the whole site was impossible to load, let alone read.

It was because of White Space management – the practice of dedicating employees to listening to customers, giving them near-unlimited resources to fix customer problems, and holding those employees accountable for the success or failure of that project.

And while that may sound like a bunch of heady business talk, Facebook’s White Space mentality was a real reason the site evolved – users decided how they wanted to use the platform, and Facebook not only accommodated, but encouraged that.

In 2005, NewsCorp dived into the social media fight and swept MySpace into their portfolio for the neat price of $580 million. They brought in professional management consultants to hone in on what made the platform special, develop and guide it’s software, and draw more users – but spreadsheets and ROI plans couldn’t keep up with the sheer flexibility of Zuckerberg’s innovation machine.

Facebook didn’t decide where it would invest based on a suite of Harvard MBA’s, but on the people using its site. They linked Facebook to popular games like Farmville. They pushed new ways to connect with people – groups, pages. They built marketplaces. The platform grew at the whims of the user.

And that team of MBA’s at MySpace was left in the dust. NewsCorp ended up selling MySpace in 2011 for just $35 million – less than 17% of what it bought the site for.

Lesson #3: Sometimes we want to have full control of where and how our brand is used – we want to track every metric and control every ‘if’, ‘and’, or ‘but’. But, we have to know when it’s best to let the people engaging with your brand decide where it fits best. Listen to what your customers are telling you, and use the White Space approach in your marketing. Solve one problem. Period. Then your customers will trust you to solve another, and another.

Suzanne Collins, Art Thief Extraordinaire

If you’ve been paying attention at all the last eleven years, you’ve seen Suzanne Collins’ work at some point – on a bookshelf, in commercials, movie theaters, tee shirts, posters, or cemented onto your Facebook newsfeed by one of her millions of adoring fans.

After all, her work, The Hunger Games, grossed almost $3 billion as a franchise.

But nothing happens in a vacuum – especially not $3 billion – and despite the books’ many successes, they weren’t the sole brainchild of our dear Miss Collins.

Let me introduce you to Battle Royale, a 1999 novel from Japan. It’s plot? A group of high school students are forced to fight to the death by a totalitarian regime.

And even Battle Royale’s author, Koushun Takami, didn’t just come up with this stuff out of nowhere. In fact, the plot harkens back to a 1982 Stephen King novel ‘The Running Man’. The Running Man? That was a plot deriving from another novel he wrote just three years before. Even those are clearly inspired by ‘The 10th Victim’, an Italian movie about a government-endorsed murderous game show.

And no matter which version of the story you’re looking at, they are all brain children of ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ published back in 1924.

Long story short? Art is full of thieves, stealing from each other and building something bigger and better.

So is business.

Snapchat implemented ‘Stories’ in 2013. In 2016, Instagram ripped the same mechanic and fit it into their own photo-centric strategy. The result? Instagram stories beat Snapchat stories within the year, reaching up to 300 million active users a month. Now even Facebook has gotten some skin in the game.

Lesson #4: When you see something working, figure out where it isn’t taking full advantage of it’s marketing position – that gap may be your next opportunity for a big win!

If you’re interested in reading more about marketing winners, losers, and the plays they make to climb the ladder, Keep up-to-date here!

Article Written By:

Connor Jaschen

Content Strategist/Writes Raps at His Desk When He Thinks No One is Watching