What Wonton Foods did seems so remarkably simple. They put different, offbeat, surprising messages in their fortune cookies. “The problem just got bigger. Think, what have you done?” says one. “It’s over your head now. Time to get some professional help,” says another. And yet with that one different slant on an old business, you’re reading about them now. And they were in the New York Times yesterday.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

In Don’t Open This Cookie (Disastrous Day Inside), Maria Aspan reports on the odd messages and how they generate a reaction.

As the messages, contained in cookies made by Wonton Food in Queens, N.Y., have spread across the country, some diners have registered their reactions online. As a result, the company has a marketing challenge on its hands.

One blogger, who got the “professional help” fortune, wrote: “I shot the audacious baked item a dirty look and proceeded to eat it. And I hope it hurt.”

Bernard Chow, marketing coordinator at Wonton Foods, says he had not set out to insult anybody when he asked his team of freelance writers to come up with some new messages.

“We wanted our fortune cookies to be a little bit more value-added,” Mr. Chow said. “We wanted to get some different perspective, to write something that is more contemporary.”

The most trendy concept in marketing lately is “remarkable,” which Seth Godin and others use to add emphasis to things that make people talk about something. Wonton Foods is hardly a newcomer; in fact it is the largest fortune cookie manufacturer in the country, producing about 4.5 million cookies every day. It’s sort of like the old kids’ game, “made you look.” A small idea but it’s spread all over the country.

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Tim BerryTim Berry
Tim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.