It’s that time of year again where companies pull out all the stops to shine up their image and get some free publicity. It’s been happening for decades and everyone, including the news media still eats it up. Don’t get me wrong, I eat it up too, but its a very strategic piece of an organization’s marketing mix.
The first time I remember something like this in my era was when the Polartec manufacturing facility in Lawrence MA burned down weeks before Christmas. The owner Aaron Feuerstein promised to keep all of the employees on the payroll while they rebuilt. It’s was a holiday miracle because many of the employees wouldn’t have been able to make it without a paycheck during the season, let alone during the reconstruction. The media ran with the story for weeks and although the decision ultimately bankrupted the company it’s still something I think of during the holidays and when I put on a Polartec Fleece.
Today I came across this story from the Lego Company that responded to a child that wrote them a heartbreaking letter about how he’d saved up for particular set and by the time he got the money together it was discontinued and selling for a small fortune on eBay.
They sent him the set for free along with a nice note about how proud they are to have him as a customer. It’s now viral and just in time for the shopping season.
I do question some pieces of the video due to the multiple camera angles and the tearing open of a box which I believe the parents would have had to of inspected before giving it to him. The reading of the entire letter through me a bit too. I’m sure most people don’t think as deeply as I do about this kind of stuff but being a marketer I question every time I see a can of Pepsi in a movie. Either way, it’s heartwarming piece of video.
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.
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.