We’d be willing to bet that when you heard the news that Hostess Brands – the bankrupt maker of Twinkies, Wonder Bread, and Ding Dongs – was shutting down production, you either made the sound, “awwww,” or at least thought it. Come on, admit it.
You probably thought about how Wonder Bread helped “build strong bodies 12 ways,” and their familiar red, yellow, and blue polka dotted packaging. And how your Mom always had the blue box with the red lettering, “Twinkies,” in the cupboard for after-school snacks. Without much thought you can probably remember the mouth-feel of the marshmallow-coconut frosting of a Sno Ball. So the years of management infighting and turmoil and labor costs and pension problems notwithstanding, the disappearance of these products brings into sharp relief the aspect of “brand.”
When we say “brand” we don’t mean just something that people know, we mean something that people feel. And emotionally bond to. Readers of our column know what we think. If you’re known, but not known for anything in particular then you’re just a “placeholder.” Your production and financial wherewithal buys you a space in the category, and that’s pretty much it. And even with that, you’re probably struggling to keep up with the real brands.
So although the Hostess Company may not be around, it’s very, very, likely that their brands will live on in another holding company’s product roster. Real brands are getting rarer than honest congressmen. That “awwww” sound or thought was the sound of a shared past. Something in which consumers find great comfort in knowing brands like that are always there for them. Or getting great comfort from just knowing that it’s still out there someplace. It transcends nostalgia and moves into the realm of emotional engagement and sometimes, cultural iconology, despite all the Zombieland movie jokes. And for all the Maslow hierarchy chatter, it doesn’t get much stronger than that.
Which why real brands always have a second chance. In fact, where there’s high engagement and loyalty, customers are six times more likely to give them a second chance. A despite all the jokes about Twinkies having a shelf-life of forever, “forever” is a word that tastes real good to real brands.