Twinkie Marketing

Last week Hostess announced that they were shutting down operations due to an inability to reach an agreement with the bakers union. Immediately following this announcement there was a Its a Wonderful Life run on every awful/awesome product they made. Some people bid up to $10,000 on eBay for some of the last (doubtful they’ll actually ever pay that) but a buzz was created.

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There are very few products that completely disappear forever, especially when they are a long standing part of American culture. When I think of Twinkies, I think of a story my brother told me about meeting the late Ted Kennedy. Ted, being the politician he was, asked my brother, a regular joe, what he’d like to see the government do with his tax dollars. My brother said that he’d heard about a supercollider project that had lost it’s funding but he had a theory that could only be proven with it so he would like to see it regain their funding again. His theory he explained was, if you brought two Twinkies up to the speed of light and smashed them together, he believed that the cake would pass through each other intact, but the creme would somehow become radioactive. Ted quickly left the room but for a moment, two people of very different upbringings were about to find a common denominator in a Twinkie.

Although that story is quite off topic, it shows that at sometime in most American’s lives, a Hostess product has been consumed, and it was probably pretty good. When they announced that they were halting production those cakes gained a place of priority because if the opportunity was missed, chances are you might not get that chance again. It’s the model of any timed deal thats currently advertised, we know it might happen again, but if it doesn’t, we don’t want to be the ones that missed out.

There was a slim chance that even if Hostess did go out of business that we would never see Twinkies again, but by reinvigorating the market, they increased the value of their assets if and when it was time to sell them, if they did work out an agreement and restarted the lines, their market awareness is now through the roof.

A strategic and genius marketing plan.

Location Based Software/ Geolocation Apps

I’m giving a presentation tonight at Umass Boston about LBS and geolocation apps. It’s suppose to stay pretty basic but I’m going to have a hard time not going on a tangent about how it was a giant botched and/or missed opportunity for marketers.

If you were at SXSW Interactive around 2009/2010 geolocation apps were all anyone was talking about. Gowalla, Foursquare, Loopt, everyone had one and everyone was getting crazy amounts of funding. The problem was, the apps were pushed out to be the first, not to be the best. Gowalla is the example that most people will know of that pivoted so many times, that their users got fed up with them and eventually they were sold to Facebook who shut the whole service down in March of this year. Foursquare saw huge growth from 2010 to 2011 but has not entered into a plateau of members because the game has gotten old.

Gamification is the current word that everyone is using but usefulness and practicality is what needs to be thought through. Services like Uber which show the location of taxis and limos close to you and even Grindr which maps out men looking for a hookup are connecting the web with the world instead of the world with the web.

 

Maybe this covers my rant for the day.  

FutureM

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I spent a week’s worth of vacation time volunteering at the FutureM conference in Boston two weeks ago. It may have been one of my best vacations in a long time. I was surrounded by peers that were all feeding off of each other. It may be a marketing conference but it was really an entrepreneurship conference. Every new friend came with a well practiced elevator pitch and every conversation ended with a business card exchange. If you weren’t selling your new idea, you were selling yourself to join someone else’s idea.

 

I got to rekindle some friendships with old coworkers that went on to Juniperks, Where, and Progress Partners which gave me hope/inspiration and I checked out the Cambridge Innovation Center and the Microsoft NERD building as well. 

It had been a crappy few weeks leading up to the conference but as everything wound down on Friday, I knew I had come to the right place to lift my spirits. Now I just need to keep that feeling alive in my future ventures.

 

Big thanks to MITX and all the other FutureM Staff and volunteers.

The continuation

So to continue on, 

Phase 5: Bands

In high school I joined my first “real” band which was a “old school hardcore” band (think Minor Threat). We played shows at local halls and houses in the metro-west area, rarely making a dime but having a blast. After a while we recorded a terrible record in three hours in an 80’s metal head’s basement. We were on the bleeding edge of a revolution and could burn copies of the cd so we finally had something to sell. Our show became a marketing tool to sell our music and for some reason people bought it. The next band I joined got a lot more serious from a business sense, we printed merch, recorded in studios, bought a van, and hit the road. Again, we were on the bleeding edge of internet marketing. We had a website with music and game, a Friendster page and then a MySpace page, we built flash banner ads and had fan post them, and we made “business” connections on social media that allowed us to tour without the aid of managers, booking agents, or record labels. It was an amazing six years and when the band finally dissolved we actually got paid out from the band account, not much but I’d pay to relive those years.

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Phase 6: Money for nothing

While playing in the band I didn’t focus on building a career, I was only interested in finishing school and getting by after that. When I moved in with some of my mates I discovered a great way to supplement my $10/hr in a college town. At the end of each semester bookstores buy back books from students but after they reach a limit of each book, they stop buying them, even if they’re still the current edition. At the end of each semester I’d drive my beat up Jetta around to the local colleges and raid the recycle bins. I’d take the books back to my apartment and sell them on half.com for a 100% profit margin. I’d end up with a few hundred bucks for a few hours worth of raiding and posting. Again, a little sketchy, but it got me by.

Phase 7: Awesome Audio

I was always a tech and gear nerd (aka, I knew how to plug things in), so a fan of the band’s dad asked me if I’d be interested in helping him out with the audio production company he owned, KTK Sound. I jumped at the chance because not only was it something I was totally into, it paid well too. He taught me the ropes and then sent me out on my own to run shows on my own. This grew into me starting to purchase my own gear and build my own clients into what would become Awesome Audio, the production company I’ve been running on nights and weekends for 8 years+ now. It is always a learning experience but figuring out profit margins, determining what capital investments should be made, business development, and keeping it fun has been, awesome.

Pulling it all together

Along with all of my experiences outside corporate walls, I’ve spent the last 8 years working full time for the Boston Phoenix. I began my career as an intern in 2004, got a full time position in the traffic department after college, got laid off on a Friday and rehired on a Monday at a 50% pay increase in as a circulation assistant, and when my boss retired I became the circulation manager. The Phoenix has been great to me because it’s given me an opportunity to experience all sides of a media company. I’ve written for the paper, had my photography published, produced video content, built marketing plans, closed sales, run operations, and performed just about every finance role possible but it lost its luster somewhere for me.

In 2009 as the economy crumbled and I witnessed the havoc unleashed with my organization, I knew it was time for a proactive change. I took a Kaplan class and began to prep for the GMATs. Although I’m pretty sure my 10 year old nephew tests better than me, I was able to get into my first choice of Umass Boston. I’m a strong believer in the state school program and can bear witness to the fact that quite a few of my professors teach at the private schools in the area that may start with Harv, Bab, Bent, and Bos during the day.

Business school ignited a passion for me. Everything I understood about marketing was compounded and confirmed. Paired with my entrepreneurial spirit I’ve found the spark that fuels me and can’t wait to put it to use. It may be one more semester until I get the piece of paper but I’ve already gotten what I was looking for. 

 

Why am I here?

Thirty years into life I can look back at what I’ve done and why I am where I currently am. I’ve always been an independent spirit very fond of finding creative ways to solve problems. Maybe it was the MacGyver or maybe it was simply about necessity. I want to focus this mostly on business and the entrepreneurial spirit that inspires me so we’ll talk about when I started to realize that items had monetary value. 

Phase 1: Matchbox Cars

I must have been 7 or so and my family was having a garage sale/yard sale/rummage sale or what ever it’s called in your region. We had the traditional piles of junk for people to look through and one guy asked if we had any Matchbox cars for sale. We didn’t, but we did have a grocery store handbasket full of them in the house that I liked to play with (I was 7 and they were still fun, frankly, I still have a small collection of Camaros). We showed the basket to the man and he said he’d give us $40 or $50 for it. Being 7 and 1989 that was a lot of dollars and I was shocked because most items were a dollar or so. We didn’t end up selling them because they were still awesome but we started looking up some of the prices of them and some of my hand-me-downs were worth serious money if they were in decent shape. They weren’t but this stuck with me.

Phase 2: Baseball 

The next phase of my life involved my passion for baseball cards. I really liked them more than I even liked baseball. I loved the imagery, I loved that feeling of opening a new pack, and I loved that there were price guides for the cards that were in the packs. I guess it was the lottery for pre-teens. I looked at them as investments and every once in a while I’d head over to the local baseball card shop and sell a bunch, sometimes for cash, sometimes just for other cards that I thought would go up in value. I have thousands still that have moved from my mom’s old houses, to my in-laws house, and now to my attic just waiting for them to get popular again so I can see a real return on my investment.

Phase 3: Bootlegging

Not in the NASCAR sense but as in the taping of shows. Pearl Jam was an obsession for me and again, I found a way to monazite that obsession. If PJ played a show or performed a rare cover of a song, I wanted to hear it. My friends and I would head into Boston to hit the used CD shops where you could find bootlegs and when I’d head to Long Island to visit my aunt, I’d always have to stop at Mr. Cheapo’s because they had the good stuff. Thanks to the invention of the internet and more specifically, AOL message boards I found a community of fellow fans looking to trade tapes of shows or get taped copies of the “official” bootlegs. I’d trade to get new stuff but for those people whom didn’t have anything that I didn’t already have, I’d sell copies for $5 a tape and ship them all over the country, sometimes internationally. At my peak I’d say I was making about $60 a week. The toughest part was getting my mom to bring me to the post office multiple times a week to make my shipments. Looking back on that, it was probably a federal crime of some sort to mail them, but we’ve got to be past the statute of limitations.

Phase 4: Legitimate Work

When I became old enough to work, I did. My first job was at a Mobil gas station in Milford Massachusetts. I worked with another Mike Johnson which resulted in my initial application being tossed out because they thought it was a joke but I was persistant so I reapplied and got hired. After that shut down for a remodel, I got a job a restaurant in Medway, Sabina Doyle’s. We had a revolving group of friends that worked there, we all started washing dishes, moved up to bus boys, barbacks, and sometimes waiters. We all hired each other which from a business standpoint was very odd, but I guess so long as there was someone there to work, no one cared. After a while I picked up a second job in Wellesley at a gas station as the night attendant. After school I’d make the 30 minute commute to work 3-9 or so. It was a little crazy but I was working 5 or 6 nights a week as a junior and senior in high school and had lots of money to buy what ever my heart desired which was mostly musical instruments. 

 

This is getting a bit long so we’ll save the next 4 phases for another post…

Phase 5: Bands

Phase 6: Recycling Books

Phase 7: Awesome Audio

Phase 8: Pulling it all together