Twinkies is in the Emergency Room…will it live or die?
And if it does survive, will it ever be as strong as it was again? It’s difficult to know for sure but one thing is clear: the marketing leadership at Hostess Brands had failed to nurture a brand that is undeniably an American icon with a value far greater than it’s $68 million year-to-date revenue. After all, how many brands can invoke nostalgia like Twinkies has in recent days? How many brands have such an impact on society that they end up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal or a feature on every major news program? Not many when you consider the thousands of brands out there, and yet, the marketing leadership at Hostess Brands has done little over the past few decades to understand, let alone capitalize on the equity.
Twinkies was introduced in 1933 by The Continental Baking Company in Inianapolis to utilize the strawberry shortcake machines that stood idle when strawberries were not in season. They were originally filled with a banana flavored cream but switched to vanilla cream during WWII when bananas were rationed. It was so popular that they never switched back.
Twinkies rose to popularity during the 1950’s when they sponsored the Howdy Doody show and were popular in the 60’s as a long lasting snack to stock in bunkers during the threat of nuclear attack.
Twinkies became the lunch box snack of choice as they were a sweet but light and airy treat with a tasty cream center, perfect to have after lunch. Twinkie the Kid was created as a mascot for the brand and was featured on product packaging, in commercials and as collectible merchandise.
So why the nostalgia? For the last few years, Americans have been dealing with a weak economy, high unemployment, wars, politics and natural disasters including Katrina and most recently Sandy. Americans, like the rest of the world, are under a great deal of “stress” and consequent longing for simpler times. A yearning for those childhood days where life was uncomplicated and happier. Twinkies was a part of those times, those memories. The idea of Twinkies disappearing is scary. It suggests that those simpler times are gone forever. And nobody wants to face that reality…particularly in their “fragile” emotional state.
If Hostess does indeed find a buyer for Twinkies, which they most likely will, the new owners will need to think about how they can make Twinkies relevant to today’s children. Twinkies popularity in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s was partly due to the fact that there were far fewer snack choices. Today, not only is there an abundance of choices in the form of candy bars, granola bars, snack bars and more, but there is also the obvious trend towards healthier treats. This means that the loyal Twinkie consumers who are experiencing the nostalgia are an aging group. To sustain the brand and appeal to the younger consumers today, the new marketing leadership will need to consider product innovation and brand communication that is relevant today.
Get well soon Twinkies.