When Hostess filed for bankruptcy in January, many fans of Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes feared their beloved snack cakes could disappear forever.
However the company appears to have every intention of making the spongy treats well into the future, having just gone live with a digital-only branding effort that's been in the works for more than a year.
The Facebook-centric campaign, dubbed "Snackisodes," is supported by online ads that encourage people to celebrate the happy minutiae of life with Twinkies or Hostess Cupcakes. People can log in with Facebook to customize a series of video vignettes created in conjunction with New York's Upright Citizens Brigade and directors from CollegeHumor. In them, a motivational speaker, a doting boyfriend, and goofy office co-workers serve as cheerleaders, elevating small triumphs as worthy of commemoration with a Hostess snack. The templated version uses a new stapler as reason to rejoice, but each video is customized according to whatever small achievement a person specifies. Photos of a person's Facebook friends also appear in the videos.
"I don't like to share you or these delicious Hostess Twinkies," says Mr. Right, welcoming his woman home and rewarding her for getting a new stapler. The romantic spoof is intended to attract women - mainly moms who buy Hostess goodies at the grocery store. The other two videos have broader appeal. Each video features "Twinkie the Kid" in human-sized, team mascot form.
"Overall our goal is not to necessarily attract new fans, but kind of reward the current fans we have and get them to be more engaged," said Joe Bartolucci, executive creative director at Bernstein-Rein, agency of record for Hostess. The majority of Hostess fans on Facebook are women, he said.
The six-week campaign is not the first to connect with Facebook to generate customized videos featuring people's names and photos of their friends. But for Hostess it is the "first foray into a pure brand building exercise" on the site, said Bartolucci. The company had done Facebook promotions and coupon offers in the past.
Since it launched the week of January 23, the campaign has scored Hostess around 26,000 new likes, while reinforcing that people can still get the cream-filled snacks.
In early January, Hostess announced it had filed for bankruptcy, and many assumed Twinkies and its other brands would go away. The Wendy Williams Show even launched a "Save the Twinkie" campaign on Facebook, and others joined the crusade.
But after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a spokesman told CNN Money that Hostess will do business as usual, continuing to produce Twinkies – and presumably its other snack cakes.
The bankruptcy filing and the timing of the Snackisodes launch, however, were unrelated, said Larson Stiegemeyer, group account director at Kansas City, MO-based Bernstein-Rein. "We had been on a path to get a lot of consumer learning and have been developing our position on the brand for around a year," said Stiegemeyer. The social media-centric Snackisodes campaign was the result of that work, he said.
"Snackisodes, and social media generally, are cost effective ways of remaining relevant and connecting with fans in a contemporary way," noted Amy Clark, director of snack marketing for Hostess, which also makes Wonder Bread and other baked goods. "We know that the campaign reflects how Hostess fans feel about their favorite snack cakes, and this is especially important as we look forward to providing their favorite treats in the future."
To promote the branding effort, Hostess has been running Facebook ads, as well as expandable display ads on other sites, and relying on people to share their personalized videos on Facebook, Twitter, and around the web. Hostess has more than 167,700 likes on Facebook.
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Kate Kaye was Managing Editor at ClickZ News until October 2012. As a daily reporter and editor for the original news source, she covered beats including digital political campaigns and government regulation of the online ad industry. Kate is the author of Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media, the only book focused on the paid digital media efforts of the 2008 presidential campaigns. Kate created ClickZ's Politics & Advocacy section, and is the primary contributor to the one-of-a-kind section. She began reporting on the interactive ad industry in 1999 and has spoken at several events and in interviews for television, radio, print, and digital media outlets. You can follow Kate on Twitter at @LowbrowKate.
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