Taking a new snack to No. 1 in two months


Hostess CupCakes has been a top seller since 1919. McKee Foods tested more than 200 recipes and decided to take on Hostess by introducing Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcakes. McKee asked Brian Pia to create a strategic PR program to unseat Hostess as the No. 1 cupcake brand.



We learned through focus groups that consumers not only wanted a great cupcake, but they also enjoyed sharing the snack with friends. We created the Share-A-Thon tour to encourage consumers to try the Little Debbie cupcakes and share them with others. We launched the campaign on October 18th—National Chocolate Cupcake Day. Consumers downloaded coupons to receive free cartons of the cupcakes from the Little Debbie website. We gave away 1 million cupcakes and began the tour. It consisted of our Smile Squad of six brand ambassadors and four Smart Cars custom-wrapped to look like Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcakes. They visited 21 cities between October and December and covered nearly 7,000 miles. The Little Debbie sales team appeared on TV morning shows with the Little Debbie Cupcake Cars. The TV hosts talked about how great the cupcakes tasted. The Smile Squad gave out 125,000 free samples of the cupcakes to consumers in parks and other public areas.



We generated hundreds of stories about Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcakes on NBC’s Today, MSNBC.com, trade, local TV, news, and influencer sites. Little Debbie Chocolate Cupcakes became the number-one-selling cupcake in the United States in just eight weeks.
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