Hostess Relaunches Twinkies as Dude Food | Adweek Hostess Relaunches Twinkies as Dude Food | Adweek
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Twinkies Relaunch as Dude Food

Expansion into other nontraditional sales channels

Photo: Scott Olson

For the recent relaunch of Twinkies, an iconic American snack that disappeared from shelves for eight months while the company switched hands and emerged from bankruptcy, Hostess has a new grown-up message: these cakes are dude food.

The company behind Twinkies and HoHos now has men in mind—specifically convenience-food-loving guys 18-35 years old.

Under “The sweetest comeback in the history of ever” tagline, Hostess flooded social media, prompted fans to make Vine videos, dispatched guerrilla street teams and food trucks to major markets, painted giant wallscapes and sent the cheesy Twinkie the Kid mascot on tour around the July 15 reappearance of the snacks.

The response came quickly. The marketer, which spent an estimated $3 million on the campaign, can scarcely keep up with demand, having shipped 85 million Twinkies and Hostess CupCakes initially and taken orders for 100 million more of those two snacks alone.

“We used a different tone, attitude and voice,” said David Lubeck, evp, executive director, client services at Hostess ad agency Bernstein-Rein, Kansas City, Mo. “We went for aggressive, bigger, bolder and younger.”

After two bankruptcy filings and a bitter labor battle, private equity firms paid $410 million this spring for the classic brands. New owners Apollo Global Management, which owns Carl’s Jr. parent CKE Restaurants, and C. Dean Metropoulos & Co., a turnaround specialist that relaunched Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, moved to get the snacks back into consumers’ hands as quickly as possible.

Management plans to modernize its products, but hard-core fans of Twinkie’s spongy golden goodness need not fret. The innovation—flavors like peanut butter, textures like nuts, gluten-free, low-sugar or fiber-enriched varieties—will happen with new products. The existing line of Sno Balls, CupCakes and Suzy Qs will remain much the same as they’ve always been, high-fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin and all. Bite-sized female-targeted packages are likely, though, in a nod to today’s healthier eating habits.

While gunning hard for brand loyalists, many of whom had been publicly jonesing via social media for Twinkies and Zingers, the brand will continue to aim at the young men who eat fast food and troll vending machines and movie theater concession stands. Celebrity endorsements are in the works, as is expansion into more nontraditional sales channels.

The test going forward will be staying relevant, said Allen Adamson, managing director of brand consultancy Landor Associates. “The scarcity created demand,” he said. “Now they’ll need to go from quaint and old-fashioned to trend-right. They can’t be on autopilot. They’ll have to be scrappy.”

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