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How to Make the Most of a Second Chance

What can you learn from the Twinkie comeback? Here, Inc. columnists give you actionable takeaways from the second coming of Hostess.

The much-lamented demise of the Twinkie is now a non-concern. After months of being off the shelves, this week Hostess relaunched all the major brands in a huge campaign they confectionately call The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever.

It just goes to show you that failure is not always the end of the world. Not only does much of the company get to continue with many of the same people, but, amazingly, it decided to use the same marketing agency to promote the brands.

It was pretty ballsy of the agency to continue pursuing the account after the failure. You would think if they had done a good enough job the first time, Hostess might not have collapsed in the first place. (Then again, there was that whole senior mismanagement issue. Maybe they should have used the Twinkie defense.)

Here's my takeaway: Don't give up prematurely. Business is business and if you can present a compelling idea that is right for the situation, you have a fair shot at winning the day. 

And here's some more advice from the pros: 

1. Keep It Simple

If you're a Mad Men fan, you likely remember the scene where Don Draper pitches the Carousel slide projector, explaining how consumers can be engaged at a deep level if they have "a sentimental bond with the product." Why do people have such a sentimental bond with the Twinkie? It's not the cake's 82-year history (or similarly long shelf life). It's the plain combination of two basic elements: sponge cake and vanilla cream. There's a lesson here, and not a complicated one: The simpler your product, the likelier it is to engage your customers at a visceral level.--Minda Zetlin, "Start Me Up"

Read more from Minda here.

2. Adapt and Streamline

Meet the new Twinkie: now with longer shelf life, smaller size, and way fewer jobs! The new Hostess employs 1,500 nonunion workers. The old version had 15,000 union members on its payroll. Hostess also plans to use just 4 out of 11 factories, and bring in outside drivers and salespeople. The company says it can make the cuts and still hit the same capacity as the old version. There are two takeaways here. First, adapt or die. Second, low-skill U.S. workers have almost no bargaining power. Harsh realities, yes, but pretending anything else is as empty as the nutritional value of a Twinkie itself.-- Bill Murphy Jr., "D.C. Bill"

Read more from Bill here.

3. Listen or Lose

The triumphant return of Twinkies is also a triumph for social media. When Hostess went bankrupt and Twinkies were taken off the shelves, consumers erupted online through Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. Apollo Global Management listened to their voices and today Twinkies are back. The lessons for you are clear: Use social media to listen to your customers and prospects, and find out what products they want and need. (And what they don't want!) And also stop screaming at people through social media and start listening. Or else your competitors will.--Dave Kerpen, "Likeable Leadership"

Read more from Dave here.

4. Don't Hide for Too Long

We live in a what have you done for me lately world. Our attention spans have never been shorter and our addictions have never been stronger. Hostess has been dark for over six months. That's a long time to go without a sugar and saturated fat fix. With hundreds of available options, people will have already moved on. Maybe snack foods have longer shelf lives than other brands, but don't count on it. Here's the takeaway: If you want to maintain a following or a customer base, you can no longer afford to go dark, at least not for long.-- Steve Tobak, "Last Word"

Read more from Steve here.

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Last updated: Jul 17, 2013

KEVIN DAUM | Columnist

An Inc. 500 entrepreneur with a more than $1 billion sales and marketing track record, Kevin Daum is the best-selling author of Video Marketing for Dummies and the executive producer of Amilya! on 77WABC New York. Sign up here and never miss out on Kevin's thoughts and humor.

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