No country has done a better job than America when it comes to inventing, branding, producing, marketing and of course, eating junk food. Tweet this article.
Manny Fernandez, of the New York Times, has written a terrific article on some of the great moments in junk-food history. I’ve incorporated a few of the facts from his piece into this blog post.
Each of these five success stories offers a great marketing lesson. Here are 5 Cool Ideas from the evolution of junk food:
1. Make it something else.
Two street vendor brothers, Frederick and Louis Rueckheim, sold a popcorn-molasses-peanut confection at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. They perfected their recipe by 1896 and called it “Cracker Jack.” Think of it as popcorn with clothes.
2. Packaging, price, and marketing all work together.
Tootsie Rolls were manufactured in New York City starting in 1905, changed junk food with one simple marketing twist. It was the first penny candy to be individually wrapped. Consumers loved the idea!
3. Sometimes good ideas will wait.
One unusually frigid night in San Francisco in 1905, 11-year-old Frankie Epperson accidentally left a powdered-soda drink he had made for himself on the porch with the stirring stick still in the cup.
The next morning, he awoke to find a frozen concoction, on a stick.
Frankie went on with his life, eventually going into real estate. It was not until 1923 that Mr. Epperson finally applied for a patent for his discovery. These days, Unilever sells two billion of them in the United States each year.
Mr. Epperson initially called his product Epsicles. His children gave it another name: Pop’s Icles [popsicles].
4. Bad scenarios can be an advantage.
James A. Dewar was the manager of a baking plant in Chicago during the Great Depression. He noticed that the shortcake pans that were used during the strawberry season sat idle the rest of the year. So he baked little cakes in the pans and injected them with a banana cream filling. He dubbed them “Twinkies” (a name inspired by a billboard he passed advertising Twinkle Toe shoes) and sold them two for a nickel.
When bananas were rationed during World War II, the banana cream center was replaced with vanilla cream. Today, Hostess bakes 500 million Twinkies a year.
5. Get more players on your team.
7-Eleven convenience stores helped introduce the super-sizing via products such as the 32-ounce Big Gulp. In 1988, the company started selling the 64-ounce Double Gulp.
In 1998, the utility tub known as the Big Gulp was refined and redesigned. The new cup was taller, and now it fit in most car cup holders. Junk food is constantly being made more convenient.
The good news is that you can pull off successful campaigns with very little capital. The bad news is there is much more junk food in our future.