We’d be willing to bet that when you heard the news, 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.
You probably thought about how Wonder Bread helped “build strong bodies 12 ways,” and their familiar red, yellow, and blue polka dot 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-cocoanut frosting of a Sno Ball. So the years of management infighting, labor costs and pension problems notwithstanding, the disappearance of these products brings into sharp relief the aspect of “brand.”
Photo: PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images
When we say “brand” we don’t mean just something that people know, we mean something that people feel, and emotionally bond with. If you’re known, but not known for anything in particular then you’re just a brand “placeholder.” Your production and financial where withal buys you a space in the category, and that’s pretty much it. 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 likely that their brands will live on in another holding company’s product roster because these day real brands are getting rarer than honest congressmen. That “awwww” 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 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 is 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. And despite all the jokes about Twinkies’ having a shelf-life of forever, “forever” is a word that tastes real good to real brands.