Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Association Management Lessons from Twinkpocalypse 2012

I knew there would be a number of tribute videos on YouTube for the Twinkie.  I just knew it.

Say what you want about the Generation X alarm about the possible demise of Hostess but you can't deny it's impact on the pop culture consciousness over the past 72 hours.  I could tip my hat to the Twinkie, but I was much more devoted to the Ding Dong, the Ho-Ho and, can we talk, the Hostess fruit pie (I can see the sugar glaze on it now in my minds eye).

I ran out the minute I heard the news to acquire said treats for old times sake.  And honestly, I thought I was probably the only pathetic loser rushing to the store.  As it turns out, I wasn't even the first one there.  The fruit pies were already gone.

Yes, we know the liquidation was granted a temporary reprieve when a judge ordered Hostess into mediation, so maybe Twinkpocalypse can be averted.  And yes, there are other hardy companies out there looking at this weirdly emotional outpouring of nostalgia and thinking, "Maybe there is still a buck or two to be made on these sentimental idiots after all."  Harvard Business Review published a smart blog entitled, "The Day Twinkies Became Cool Again," that examines the relationship between brands and how we can still stay hooked to them even when they become irrelevant.

I wonder if there is a lesson here for associations.  It kind of feels like it for some of us, right?  What if members love us like they loved Twinkies?  At first, they loved the taste.  Later, they appreciated the fact that associations were there for them when they were down.  After a while, maybe they moved on from membership into some other state of being that we neglected to capture.  Maybe some of us are irrelevant because we stopped doing the things we do best - educating, getting people jobs and protecting those jobs.

But there is hope.  If your association gets to the point where you feel like throwing in the towel, I wonder how many people will come out of the woodwork to say, "No! Don't go! I haven't been around, but I never stopped loving you!" Maybe we have an entire constituency out there that hasn't really forgotten us. And maybe we need to make sure we stay on the shopping list for future generations by doing things that really matter.

As for me, I scarfed that last Ding Dong thinking about a dear friend of mine from Clark County Christian School, one of the many schools I attended.  He was the coolest boy around, and we were just really good friends.  He was interested in another girl, and I was interested in another boy.  But for some reason, we sat together every day at lunch, commiserating about our love lives, our parents and our general frustrations and he would always give me half of that foil wrapped, chocolatey goodness that his mother put in his lunch.

And maybe that's what the Hostess brand was really all about.  Love and friendship, and the knowledge that no matter how bad it got, no matter what couldn't actually be fixed, a hug and a tasty snack might make it bearable for a little while longer.

Maybe we can make membership like that too.


  1. I wonder if it also is simply the case of nostalgia ... getting something from our past before it no longer will be a part of our future? I'd bet that a significant percentage of the people rushing out to buy probably hadn't been a consumer of any of the Hostess products for a very long time. Maybe associations can clean some insight from the Hostess experience when it comes time to discontinue a popular product, service, etc. Intentionally cultivate that one last chance to get a taste of the action ... much in the way agin performers do a farewell tour?

  2. Very good question. There is a lot to be said for nostalgia...

    I love the idea of the farewell tour! Very creative! :D


  3. Sad. I wonder if there is anything related to marketing strategies, maybe there's a need for customized hats or bags, or anything that can make people remember Twinkies. *fan girl sigh*

  4. Say what you want about the Generation X alarm about the possible demise of Hostess but you can't deny it's impact on the pop culture consciousness over the past 72 hours. website


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