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.
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.
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.