We ran a story last week on the popularity of marshmallow Peeps. Beyond being cute and beloved as an Easter treat, Peeps have reached cult status in a way few other brands have.
While some companies dream of having their products achieve such household brand-name recognition, much of the success of Peeps happened outside the marketing department at its parent company, Just Born. In fact, there are whole websites created by Peeps fans and the first Peeps diorama contests were sponsored by newspapers, not by Peeps itself.
For businesses looking to create similar groundswells of populist support, there are a few things to be learned from Peeps' success.
Follow their lead. – Pennsylvania-based Just Born, which has been making Peeps since the 1950s, didn't come up with the idea to hold Peeps contests. However, when the company noticed that two newspapers were hosting Peeps diorama contests, they decided to get on board. The company started offering prize packages to the winners and now has a contest section on its website where it lists all kinds of Peeps contests. Your company can do the same thing. If you see that someone has become a fan of your company, see what you can do to reward them or thank them for their support.
Staying fresh. – Originally, Peeps only came in one variety – little yellow marshmallow chicks. Over the years, though, Peeps have expanded their color offerings and have also included bunnies, pumpkins, Christmas trees and more in their marshmallow repertoire. Make sure your company is always finding new ways to keep customers interested and coming back for more.
Listen to your customers. – For more than 50 years, Peeps were a wholesale-only product – you couldn't buy them directly from Just Born. Customers, however, kept requesting Peeps retail stores. The company finally decided to give it a try and now has three retail stores with more in the works. If you want your company to grow, be sure you're listening to your customers and changing if you need to.
Leverage your popularity. – Though Peeps get most of the attention, Just Born's other brands are no slouches, either. They also manufacture Mike & Ike and Hot Tamales. Both are prominently featured in Just Born's retail stores. If you've got a service or product that's really popular, use its popularity to help build awareness around your other products or services.
Find your pollinators. – Pollinators are people who spread the word about your product. Just Born has lots of grass-roots pollinators, but they've also managed to win the adoration of some celebrity fans, too. All industries have heavy-hitting pollinators – even if they're not famous. Be sure to find out who yours are and reach out to them. One or two powerful pollinators could be all you need to start spreading the buzz about your business.
Jeanette Mulvey has been the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily since its debut in 2010. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.