For anyone who was alive and kicking in the 70s Twinkies was right up there with ABBA, glitter, leotards and hot pants. It was the snack food of the moment that contained, within its partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil, sugar, water and starch content, the soul of a decade.
If you think I am overstating it consider two seminal moments, the infamous Twinkie Defense and when the Ghost Buster’s character, Egon, explains psychokinetic activity using a Twinkie as a visual aid (both links found at the end of this article).
So it’s no surprise we feel a little nostalgic now that Twinkies are getting their rightful place in the popular culture museum of history. It should come as a surprise that it did not happen sooner.
Hostess is the classic example of a company that remained stuck in a time warp. As its target audience, customer sensibilities and habits and the decades around it changed, the company failed to keep up. The packaging of its products remained the same, the marketing chugged along the same old, tired lines and the quality, by all accounts, went south as it led to an easy maintenance of profit margins through the use of inferior ingredients.
Why did it come unstuck? Here are three major reasons:
01. Hostess failed to find its USP. The Unique Selling Point of any business is the core reason for being in business. It doesn’t matter if you do what thousands of others do, if you fail to do it better then you’re doomed. Hostess went from being the junk food lunchbox staple of the 70s to a market place crammed with choice, and they forgot who they were and what they were in business for.
02. It failed to adapt. It’s 42 years between 1970 and today. Hostess Twinkies, in that time, barely changed its packaging. This was also symptomatic of a company incapable of understanding the necessity for change and its potential to destroy it.
03. They forgot about quality. Once upon a time, Hostess Twinkies, despite their sugar-rich, starchy content stood for wholesome home-baking. They even had added iron to help fortify young bodies. Then, as sales fell and marketing became tougher company management made a series of disastrous decisions that dropped the quality, reduced production costs and managed to keep the company chugging along, until now.
In short the company was stuck in the past with the management team using the Ostrich defense against a tough market. When their heads finally came out of the sand the final bell had rang and there were no more choices left but to call it a day.
Frankly I am surprised it actually took so long.
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