McKee Foods sparked some major buzz — and even some minor panic — among fans of its Little Debbie snacks last week when it tweeted that one of four items in the brand's lineup had to go, the Miami Herald reported.
The November 8 Twitter post showed four Little Debbie items — Christmas Tree Cakes, Nutty Buddies, Oatmeal Creme Pies and HoneyBuns — with ominous wording above suggesting that one of the snacks would be eliminated and "Which one?" underneath. The company created further consternation the next day when it tweeted, "We didn't say it would be easy," along with the hashtag #OneGottaGo.
It turned out that the Tennessee-based snack maker was only kidding and has no intention of killing off one of its popular items anytime soon. More than 2,000 comments and 200 retweets later, company spokesman Mike Gloekler told TODAY Food that, "Our Little Debbie social media team thought it would be fun to get in on the #OneGottaGo Twitter meme, which asks a fairly tough question — if you had to live without one of four things you really love, which would it be?"
The iconic Little Debbie brand isn't coming up with innovative new products like Hostess Brands, nor is it adding protein to its approximately 75 popular sweet treats like thinkThin's new product line. So even though the legacy snack brand claims it makes up about one-third of the U.S. snack cake market, Little Debbie needs to do something once in a while to get people talking.
In the buzz-generation department, last week's Twitter ploy certainly succeeded — perhaps far beyond the company's expectations. Fans divided up into partisan groups, each advocating for their own top choice and suggesting that another, less-favored, item should be tossed off the fantasy snack island instead.
Another user with the name Geneva offered a different item in place of the clear favorite and projected a grim scenario otherwise. "I work in the South and if you eliminate the oatmeal pies, well, I just don't wanna be around to see the aftermath. It won't be pretty. Personally, I've always loathed those Nutty Buddy things. #OneGottaGo."
While the conversation about the brand certainly increased, it remains to be seen whether the buzz will translate into higher sales, especially for the four items mentioned in the Little Debbie tweets. Any initial advertising effectiveness could be blunted if customers end up feeling played and begin to distrust the company's future marketing outreach. What if former fans decide to mount a reaction campaign against Little Debbie with the hashtag #SheGottaGo?
In a time when #fakenews is always trending, it might be better for manufacturers to stay away from creating their own. If a company suggests via Twitter that a product will disappear and later confesses that it was only kidding, angry customers might vote with their feet and turn the joke into reality.