It is perhaps the second biggest resurrection in history: Hostess, which ceased operations in November, found a buyer for its snack cake brands a few months later, and, as of July 15, Twinkies were for sale once again.
In the interim, the brand appeased fans with Prepare Your Cakeface, a website that asked consumers to prepare for Hostess snacks by filming themselves exercising their faces and submitting the videos via Vine and Instagram.
As of Friday, the brand had received a little over 1,000 videos to date.
Because the relaunch received so much media attention, David Lubeck, executive vice president and executive director of client services at marketing firm Bernstein-Rein, says Hostess went with a pre-launch strategy to intensify buzz. Bernstein-Rein, which has been Hostess' agency for eight years, implemented a two-phase relaunch.
The pre-launch phase took place from June 24 to July 14.
It included: high-visibility placements in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Hostess' hometown of Kansas City; street teams with "Prepare Your Cakeface" t-shirts and "I Saved the Twinkie" buttons; and banner ad buys on sites relevant to young male and mom targets, as well as the aforementioned website.
In order to submit a video to PrepareYourCakeFace.com, users simply tag them with #Cakeface.
Post-relaunch, the campaign's messaging has simply shifted to "The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever" and the site has become FeedYourCakeFace.com. It continues to ask consumers to generate Vine and Instagram videos, but with Hostess snacks. The street teams continue to engage consumers and generate Vine and Instagram videos for the site.
"The comeback messaging had to have a different attitude. It had to be younger and more contemporary and needed to talk more in the language of the younger audience without saying anything that wouldn't communicate to the older audience and loyal fans," Lubeck says. "That's why instead of 'the snack is back,' we talked about the 'sweetest comeback in the history of ever'...we realized that moms are the other target and they want to speak in their kids' language, so why not use the same language?"
In addition, the Hostess website has added Snack Spotting, an interactive map where users can pin and share where they have found Hostess products.
According to Lubeck, Hostess has been overwhelmed by the reception and products are literally "flying off the shelves."
Between June 24 and July 15, Lubeck says Hostess' efforts resulted in 372 million total Twitter impressions with the hashtag #Twinkies; 455,000 impressions on Facebook; and a 2,100 percent increase in Instagram followers. What's more, the average time on PrepareYourCakeFace.com was nearly four minutes.
It has also resulted in posts from celebrities like rapper Snoop Lion.
"Basically, in November when it was decided by former management and unions to liquidate all the assets of Hostess, it was gone. It was not just lying there - it was dead," Lubeck says. "We kept a number of people on the team to make sure we were staying in touch and, frankly, at that time, the outreach from consumers through social media was incredible. Loyal fans of Hostess, Twinkies, and Cupcakes were in mourning. We kept seeing all that and kept listening so we knew what people were thinking."
As a result, the firm was able to show the new owners what the public wanted, he says.
"Our feeling from the outpouring of consumers was they just want it back. They don't want anything special. It's nostalgia and, to a large degree, they like the taste. But here's an American icon and it's gone," Lubeck says. "We felt there was such a demand to come back, we felt we could communicate with a loyal fan group."
In addition, the firm wanted to expand beyond Hostess' most loyal customers in grocery stores and extend it to people who shop at convenience stores, who are younger, and predominantly male.
According to Lubeck, the brand is looking at doing additional videos beyond Vine and Instagram, as well as the possibility of incorporating a celebrity.
"We definitely want to keep the content going. We definitely want to make sure we're continuing to be relevant in consumers' minds and definitely a part of pop culture," Lubeck says. "We want to make sure to maintain that image."
Hostess has 510,000 likes on Facebook and 35,000 Twitter followers.
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Lisa Lacy is senior staff writer at ClickZ. In addition to ClickZ, her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, The Luxury Spot, LearnVest, MarthaStewart.com, GoodHousekeeping.com, amNewYork, and The Wall Street Journal. She's a graduate of Columbia's School of Journalism.
March 19, 2014