A giant billboard of a Twinkie in Times Square. A new Hostess website featuring a countdown clock. A social media campaign that encourages people to share their love of Twinkies and other snack cakes such as CupCakes, Donettes donuts and Ding Dongs.
Hostess is whetting consumers' appetites for the return of some of its most well-known treats with a broad comeback campaign that touts the arrival of the products on store shelves Monday.
The marketing comes nearly eight months after Hostess filed for bankruptcy, and Twinkies and other snack cakes disappeared from store shelves.
The company was subsequently bought by two private equity firms, Metropoulos & Co. and Apollo Global Management.
Hostess plans to welcome back Twinkies, CupCakes, and both frosted and chocolate Donettes under the tagline, "The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever."
"We want people to know that it's the same Hostess, but with a different attitude," says Dave Lubeck, executive director for client services at Bernstein-Rein Advertising, which created the ad campaign. "It's younger, more aggressive."
Social media are a large part of that approach. The Hostess Facebook page, updated nearly every day in the past three weeks, has close to 440,000 likes. The site began to tease the return of the treats at the end of June with posts like, "We're back online. And pretty soon we'll be back in the snack aisle."
Social media users are buzzing about the resurgence of the snack cakes:
--"THANK YOU LORD OF SUGAR! Twinkies to return to shelves July 15," said Eric Alper, tweeting under @ThatEricAlper.
--"TWINKIES ARE COMING BACK JULY 15TH I REPEAT THE TWINKS ARE RETURNING," tweeted Emily Coffman under @c0ffeemon.
--"Twinkies party at my house July 15th when they hit the shelves again," tweeted Lindsay Beaver via @lindsaybeavs.
--@TheDCD: "So apparently Twinkies will be returning to store shelves on July 15th. Too bad you can't place pre-orders... :)" tweeted Robert Workman via @TheDCD.
Hostess is engaging loyal consumers through traditional, social and guerrilla media, Lubeck says. In addition to the large Twinkie in Times Square, there is also a giant chocolate cupcake on the side of Los Angeles' Figueroa Hotel, with the date "7.15.13" to signify the return of Hostess treats to store shelves.
This week in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, street teams are handing out "Prepare Your Cake Face" T-shirts and "I saved the Twinkie" buttons. In return, consumers are taking to social media, including Vine and Instagram, to post their own videos of their "cakes faces," some of which are featured on PrepareYourCakeFace.com
The "cake face" is an expression of preparation -- open to consumer interpretation -- as people await the return of the snacks, Lubeck says. Faces range from eager wide eyes and mouths wide open to satisfied smiles and people already chewing.
A Twinkies food truck tour is also in the works. Snack cake promoters will travel the country and pass out free Twinkies. It will kick off in the Times Square area Monday for two days before departing for Chicago and Los Angeles, making stops at festivals and events along the way.
Mascot Twinkie the Kid may be spotted during the tour, Lubeck says.
And in the future, there could be some famous folks endorsing the brand.
When Hostess was liquidated, upset consumers - including celebrities - vented via social media, Lubeck says.
His firm reached out to some of those people about working with Hostess, he says, and future celebrity endorsements "are likely."
While Hostess has a "very strong philosophy" of maintaining the inherent nostalgia of the original products, different treats may also be on the way, Lubeck says.
Hostess will "absolutely" be innovative and relevant, bring a bolder voice to the brand and try to reach more consumers with new and healthier options.
Rebecca Castagna, USA TODAY
Gannett / USA Today