For any company that’s been around for a century, it can be hard to keep the brand fresh. Wonder Bread hopes its latest stunt can help.
The 101-year-old bread maker will have a float in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, marking the first-time ever the kitchen staple has joined the lineup. Watched by roughly 25 million viewers last year on NBC, Wonder Bread hopes that the event will remind people that the brand is still thriving despite recent consumer shifts toward private label breads and lower calorie alternatives.
“I really hope that people are inspired and realize that Wonder is still here,” Ashley Smith, brand manager for the bread maker, said in an exclusive interview with CNN Business. Smith added that viewers will “take away the fact that Wonder is that classic, staple, everyday bread. But we’re also changing and evolving and bringing new things to the consumer every day.”
The float is called the Wondership and was designed to pay homage to a hot air balloon race that founder Elmer Cline once witnessed, inspiring him to name his bread Wonder. The brand’s signature logo colors — red, yellow and blue — are also featured on the float and on balloons and confetti. There are clouds on the side of the rolling attraction, which is meant to inspire more than just floating.
“We knew we wanted to do something different to provide a new look and something that would be inspiring to everybody watching,” Smith said. “The design inspired us, leaning into the pillowy softness of Wonder Bread.”
Designing the float started about a year ago, Smith said, with construction taking roughly six months. Wonder Bread will participate in the parade for the next three years with the same design. A singer to ride on this year’s float has yet to been announced.
Smith also said it’s the “perfect time” to remind consumers that Wonder Bread can be used in multiple Thanksgiving recipes, notably stuffing or for sandwiches with leftovers. “It’s celebrating our anniversary, but it’s also leaning into that joyful time period that works so well with our brand.”
Using the parade as a platform “guarantees a great audience,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of retail at GlobalData. Brands can use the annual event to be more creative than a typical advertisement since it’s “focused around fun and frivolity.”
“As a heritage brand with a very long history, Wonder Bread is perhaps hoping to invoke a sense of nostalgia and increase its profile among the family demographic,” Saunders said. “The parade is a good vehicle for this as it makes a lot of older consumers think about past times.”
Wonder Bread is owned by Flower Foods, a publicly traded company that also owns Nature’s Own and Dave’s Killer Bread. Hostess formerly owned Wonder, but sold the brand in 2013 because of bankruptcy issues.
In recent earnings calls, Flower Foods has been focusing on Dave’s and Nature’s Own — both of which position themselves as “better for you” alternatives compared to traditional white bread. However, Smith said that Wonder is still popular and will be introducing a new product next year.
“It’s a classic brand,” Smith said. “Classic brands are very adaptable, and we’re always looking for fresh ideas that meet our consumers’ needs.”