I used to live in St. Louis, which, being the home of the Twinkie, is well-provided with Hostess outlet stores. These stores sell almost-stale Hostess products, Wonder Bread, etc. Never mind how old a Twinkie needs to be to be "almost stale".
Anyway, these stores offered a strange product called "King Dons". They looked, felt, and tasted just like Ding Dongs, but they were, as I just pointed out, King Dons. In normal stores in St. Louis, they’re always Ding Dongs. You’ll never see a "King Don" on a shelf at the 7-Eleven there.
At first, I thought that this might have something to do with Don King, the much-beloved boxing promoter. I couldn’t imagine what the connection would possibly be, though, and besides, there’s a difference:
|King Dons||Don Kings|
Anyway, the good people at Hostess wrote back (with what looks like a form letter; mine is not the only copy of this thing on the web), explaining that Ding Dongs (which appears to be the canonical name for the things) are known variously as King Dons or Big Wheels, depending on what part of the country you’re in. This is allegedly to avoid confusion with some other products offered in those regions.
If the problem is some other product (presumably Ring Dings, which pre-date Ding Dongs and which are virtually the same product), why are there two alternate names?
Everyone calls these things Ding Dongs, regardless of what the box says. Hostess should in fact be suing or buying the "Ding Dong" name from whoever owns it in these mysterious regions, if that’s the case.
Where I live now, the boxes on the shelves say "King Dons" as often as not. You can’t get Ring Dings — the only thing I can think of that could possible claim a name conflict with Ding Dongs — here.
I think there’s something far more sinister going on.
Thank you for your recent comments regarding the naming of our HOSTESS King Dons Cake.
Many years ago, the HOSTESS product Ding Dongs Cake was introduced with a bell as part of the advertising. So as not to confuse our product with a competitor’s product, in certain regions the name was changed to King Dons, while in other areas the same product was called Big Wheels.
In the past, the original Ding Dongs Cake (with the bell) became Ding Dongs Cakes (without the bell), King Dons, or Big Wheels, depending upon the region.
In January 1987, our Marketing Department decided that in order to have national continuity, one name for a product was necessary, and the original Ding Dongs name was chosen.
This decision was short lived. In June 1987, the name King Dons was added, for the same reason as explained previously, to avoid confusing one product with a competitor’s product which has a similar sounding name.