Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

With the news that Hostess Brands has filed for bankruptcy protection and the Hostess Twinkie may become but a fond memory, our friend David Wronski sent this:

When I was an Ad Biggie the maker of Wonder Bread and Hostess Cakes was a client. Part of the assignment for advertising established brands was an ongoing project to develop new products. You should know that generally when a marketer has a #1 brand such as Twinkies there is reluctance to introduce a new variety of that proven format. The risk is a new version will only fragment the market share of the original; net, net, you lose money because your sales remain constant but earnings are reduced due to the additional the marketing costs for the line extension. That’s the general rule of thumb, anyway. It’s not an immutable rule of marketing, and there is such a thing as test marketing to test such ventures on a small, lower risk scale. Even so, when you have a brand such as Twinkies which is such a sales powerhouse in your company, there is a mythic aura of immutability to its status, often so much so that the idea of a line extension is virtually out of the question.  

The exception that I know of is the brand Chocodiles. It is simply a chocolate covered Twinkie. Butand this is importantit was not marketed as a chocolate covered Twinkie. It was a whole new brand identity in itself. I was not there as part of the discussion that led to Chocodiles, but it would probably be a good story by itself.

There also had been some limited time offers with flavored creams such as banana, strawberry, and chocolate. And, much later after the brand ownership changed from ITT Continental Baking. But nothing like what I had in mind. (If they only listened.)

Just after this was posted a former colleague added . . . "my  experience: being sent . . .to Tokyo to introduce a healthy Twinkie, filled with raisins.  I have no idea if [it was] a success."

I come into this because the recent Twinkie news reminds me of my own two new product suggestions. One was during the time of the Jimmy Carter presidency. How about a peanut butter cream filled Twinkie coated in chocolate? Let’s call them “Jimmies”. Maybe with a big toothy cartoon smile plastered on the packaging. Or, how about a jelly filled Twinkie? Call them “Twinkles”. I personally liked the idea of a fruity, juicy filling; but the name Twinkles probably was a little too close to home for comfort. Don’t mess with big #1 Twinkies.

But all that was back in the day. Nowadays, it seems the line extensions are introduced right on the heels of the original product debut, well ahead of the original having time to establish a market hold. That is an arguable point, but I do have a rather solid example in mind; one that I will talk about at a later time. 

So now we have Twinkies going bankrupt. I don’t know if Jimmies or Twinkles would have made a decisive difference. But, hey, they would have tasted good.