Never doubt the power of ‘the real thing.’

More than 50 million Twinkies start making their way to stores this week, and the first step in restoring the brand is re-engaging the brand relationship that Twinkies has with America.

Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co., the hedge funds that purchased the Twinkies brand, understood the depth and capacity of the relationship that Twinkies had with their consumers – a relationship that no other product could have. They valued that relationship to the tune of $410 million.

That relationship’s value is rooted firmly in the Twinkies brand.

The power of the Twinkie brand is simple – a Twinkie is a Twinkie. Not a snack cake, not a cream filled treat, but a Twinkie. Nothing else can be a Twinkie. Nothing else can own that mindspace.

Many products tried to fill the Twinkie gap, but none have been able to develop the relationship that Twinkies owned with America – ‘the real thing’. Flowers Foods’ look-a-like called “TastyKake ,” Blue Bird brand launched “Bingles,” Mrs. Freshley came out with “Dreamies” and Little Debbie stepped up its production and marketing of their “Cloud Cakes.”

To consumers, all these attempts were seen as imposters. In response, fans even launched a Save The Twinkie campaign.

As Evan Metropoulos put it, “The brand and the company encouraged a type of consumer obsession. We saw concrete evidence that this was a cult brand.”

Look no further than the frenetic rush to buy up the remaining inventory when Hostessannounced the closure. Twinkies flew off the shelves and even made their way to ebay where a single box went on sale for $200,000. The hoarding, panic buying, and active secondary market sales demonstrate the emotional connection people have with the concept of ‘the real thing.’

The prospect of losing the real thing sent people running to stores out of a fear of losing something that was irreplaceable, something that was real. In their minds, nothing could replace the Twinkie.

That’s the power an iconic brand has. When a brand is seen as the real thing, nothing else can take its place. A Q-tip is a Q-tip. A Xerox is a Xerox. Coke is Coke, and a Twinkie is a Twinkie.

Iconic brands, or ‘the real thing,’ become irreplaceable.

Twinkies return with a simple campaign, The Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever. To many, the return of the real thing – the Twinkie – will indeed be sweet.