Little Debbie

From the back of a car to $1.4 billion in sales

It’s 1960, and we’re in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The founder of McKee Foods is trying to come up with a catchy name for the new snack cakes he’s developing.

Welcome to the beginning of “Little Debbie” – and the birth of an iconic brand.



Luckie has been proud to handle the Little Debbie business since 1978. And in the mid-80s, the company asked us to figure out what made Little Debbie special.

So we started by digging into the data to figure out what made Little Debbie fans special.

We talked to a lot of folks (and ate a lot of great cakes), and here’s what we discovered: Fans of Little Debbie fall into two distinct camps.

One group is 45+ with no kids in the house and for whom Little Debbie is an essential part of their personal history.

And the other is 25-54 with two-plus kids who want a tasty treat.

Oh, and one more thing. For both these groups, Little Debbie is more than just a snack. It’s a way for friends and family to come together.

It’s a catalyst for happiness.

We call that a “great insight.”


That’s why we created “Unwrap A Smile” – and why that message is at the heart of everything we do for Little Debbie.

Not just because it’s a great line (although it is). And not just because it resonates deeply with the people who love Little Debbie (although it does).

But because it lifts the conversation out of the straitjacket of price and cost and value by making it less about dollars and cents and more about how great Little Debbie makes you feel.

And we’ve delivered on that insight everywhere the consumer is: TV, print, radio, sweepstakes and contests. Social media, experiential events, digital campaigns. We’ve developed innovative packaging, new product concepts, product names, attention-getting in-store displays and category-leading social engagement programs.

Now think for a moment about how much has changed since 1978. Home computers. The Internet. Cell phones. Cable TV. Social media. For crying out loud, when we started with Little Debbie, people were still reading newspapers!

But the smile on the face of a Little Debbie fan? That never changes.

Key Results

  • Developed a consumer-insight campaign that unified disparate targets and fought competitors
  • Managed marketing efforts across all media for an iconic brand for 30 years, even as the media landscape exploded with options
  • Helped grow sales from $200 million to over $1.4 billion
  • Led snack category on social media
  • Helped Little Debbie dethrone Hostess to become the best-selling snack cake in America
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