THE MARKETING 100: TWINKIES: STAN OSMAN

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Stan Osman is so enthusiastic about Twinkies that he can't wait to ask what a caller thinks about Planet Twinkie, the online site for the fans of Twinkie, Ho Ho and Ding Dong snacks (www.twinkies.com). When the caller admits the Web site is fun, he chuckles with satisfaction.

"Consumers are looking for great taste, fun and a little indulgence in bakery snacks," says Mr. Osman, VP-marketing, Interstate Bakeries Corp. "That's what we aim to provide."

Just three years ago, fresh bagels, chips and private-label pastries were eating into Hostess' share, even though few of these brands have Twinkies' level of brand recognition.

A change of ownership helped pump new life into the brand. Convinced that Twinkies were still highly marketable, Interstate last year began its first advertising campaign in more than a decade. At agency Campbell Mithun Esty, Minneapolis, Twinkie fans clamored to work on the account.

Inspired by the Tom Hanks' movie "Big"-which Mr. Osman says "helped us to try to be little kids in our big people bodies"-the "Critters" campaign debuted with TV*spots featuring a hungry bear who thought a gold-colored mobile home was a Twinkie. "Hey, where's the cream filling?" complains the bear.

Last year Interstate spent $5.6 million to advertise its snack cakes, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

The ads are working. According to Information Resources Inc., sales of Twinkies in supermarkets for the 13 weeks ending April 6 were up 13.4% over the previous-year period.

"Kids are changing all the time," and Twinkies is trying to keep up with them, says Mr. Osman. "We knew we had to talk to kids and we had to talk to them in a language they would understand."

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