– Elaine Wong
Branded retail locations have helped sell computers and footwear for years. Now, toaster pastries are getting in on the action, with one iconic brand enjoying significant buzz from its recent foray into New York’s Times Square.
Pop-Tarts World debuted Aug. 11 at 42nd Street, between 6th Avenue and Broadway. Joining other packaged-goods brands like M&M and Hershey in establishing a retail fixture at one of the world’s great crossroads, P-T World boasts an everything Pop-Tarts-inspired café (menu items include ants on a log and the Fluffer Butter) and fan merchandise. The store sees 1,500 to 2,000 visitors per day.
Since the launch, the brand’s buzz has improved on the Web, with positives rising to 88 percent from 74 percent before the brick-and-mortar launch, per interactive marketing shop Zeta Interactive. Some of the words most commonly associated with Pop-Tarts are “memory/memories,” “great” and “fun,” Zeta found — solid associations for any brand. Plus, the tone of posts surrounding the brand has become more positive as well.
The brand is even overtaking familiar competitors. Measured in terms of average daily volume (i.e., the number of online daily posts), Pop-Tarts’ popularity is currently 16 percent higher than Wheaties, 18 percent above Cheerios, 22 percent more than Frosted Flakes and well ahead of breakfast food juggernaut Quaker Oats at 84 percent.
That says a lot about the brand, particularly one that has taken a backseat to more healthful (and non-toaster-required) grab-and-go morning fare like Kellogg siblings Nutri-Grain, Kashi and Special K.
Pop-Tarts’ pop-culture status is extending beyond the brand itself. Kellogg’s brand buzz has also increased by 6 percent since the store opened, and overall tonal buzz surrounding the Kellogg brand grew from 77 to 84 percent over the last two weeks, per Zeta.
P-T World is also having a noticeable effect on the brand’s social media presence. Its Facebook page grew from 1.8 million to 2 million fans within two weeks after the store launched, Kellogg said, and consumers are engaging in the conversation via wall posts as well as uploading photos of themselves at the store, brand associate director Scott Sundheim said.
Kellogg originally developed the store as a way to draw consumers — new and old — to a 47-year-old brand that built its heritage on the notion of “fun.” Consumers come to the store for all different reasons, but they’re all looking for “a really fun experience,” Sundheim said.
Kellogg is also using the store as a way to garner take-home lessons and marketing insights for Pop-Tarts. The top seller in the store, among the toaster pastries, is its new ice-cream sandwich. Also popular: Pop-Tarts sushi made with crushed pastry bits in a fruit wrapping. (Some bloggers, however, have described the concoction as “gross,” “chalky” and one even equated it to “cardboard.)
In addition, PopTartsWorld.com, the brand’s e-commerce platform, has gotten 17,500 hits per week. Sundheim said the online store is an extension of the brand’s retail presence, a way for many fans to get Pop-Tarts branded merchandise even though they cannot physically visit the store.
Mark Feldman, COO of NetProspex, a company that publishes a directory of business-to-business sales and marketing contacts, follows Pop-Tarts closely and said he’s not surprised by the results.
“When you open a store on Times Square, you can really propel a recognized brand to icon status,” he said, adding that the challenge, going forward, will be for Pop-Tarts to continue leveraging the buzz, perhaps by having consumers come up with user-generated content about the brand. Oreo fans, for instance, will often post YouTube videos on how they like to eat their favorite cookie. (The Kraft Foods-owned brand is nearing 9 million Facebook followers.)
Al DiGuido, CEO of Zeta Interactive, the firm that conducted the research, said Pop-Tarts’ buzz has the potential to go a long way. He’s already seeing many convenience store and newsstand owners in New York City move the product to the front, and it’s certainly got the potential to increase sales.
“All this pop that is being generated in terms of awareness could register in terms of receipts and cash registers [ringing],” he said.