August 30, 2012

Do you like this?

When you think “marshmallow sandwich,” you think moon pie. If there’s another brand, it would be difficult to name, much less ponder. That Moon Pies are among the few iconic Chattanooga food bands, the connection is even more clear and instantly identifiable.

So when I read that Chattanooga Bakery, makers of the Moon Pie since 1917 were fiddling with the brand, I was a little concerned. I have often felt that stretching a brand beyond its unique qualities—the entry of Krystal into the full-size burger market, for example—dilutes its original appeal, and is often a huge mistake. When it comes to snack foods—particularly iconic local brands, such as the Moon Pie and Little Debbies—the appeal and idea of these products is clear and purposeful. You see them on the shelf, nostalgia or a sweet tooth takes hold, and you consume them, sometimes at one sitting, as I do.

As it turns out, the folks at Chattanooga bakery weren’t expanding the line—chocolate, banana, and the newer mini Moon Pies, introduced in 1999, are as far as the line should legally stray—but updating the packaging. And instead of going futuristic, they turned backward to the brand’s historical packaging. “It’s designed to stir up the warm feelings people associate with our brand while modernizing the look,” Sam Campbell, the bakery’s president and fourth-generation head of the family owned company, in a recent Times Free Press story on the shift.

I’m not sure if this move will achieve the marketing goals of The Goldstein Group, the firm that took on the project, which “specializes” in how consumers see, feel and relate to a brand in 10 seconds or less. I don’t keep count, but I imagine that’s the length of time I’d consider purchasing a non-essential item, so I’ll give them that.

The redesigned packaging—a celestial quarter moon against a fluffy, cloud-like background with a digital representation of a Moon Pie—is indeed appealing. But as long as the line of Moon Pies were of the same flavor and quality, I wouldn’t mind a simple white box with the words Moon Pie printed on it.

Consider the mistake another iconic brand, Pop-Tarts, made in an effort to expand their market and achieve superiority over Toaster Strudels. Where once you were faced with a nice selection of flavors, either frosted or unfrosted—chocolate, strawberry, blueberry and cinnamon—one now confronted with multiple flavors of undecipherable authenticity. Along the way, Kellogg’s also ditched at least two brilliant flavors—Danish Apple and white-frosted chocolate fudge. These days, as often as not, I purchase store-brand pastries of the basic flavor line.

I can’t say I’ll purchase a box of Moon Pies because of the brand’s new packaging, but at least they didn’t make the Pop-Tarts mistake. And if you try to tart up Little Debbie, McKee Foods, you’re just asking for trouble.


August 30, 2012

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