BrainTrust Query: We All Scream for Ice Cream

Sep 02, 2009

Commentary by Joel Warady, Principal,
Joel Warady Group

If you want to rise
above the clutter of all the other companies out there that are providing similar
products or services such as those that you offer, you have to be different.
You have to be unique.

Seth Godin states it
succinctly in his book Purple Cow;
you have to be “remarkable.”

Which leads us to a
company that “gets it.” Today we talk about ice cream.

Ice cream has been
around for ages. There is cheap, boring ice cream on the market. There are premium
products on the market, rich in taste and texture. There are super-premium products
available that cost a significant amount of money for each delicious scoop, and
are available in exotic flavors. And for awhile, we were all excited by the funky
flavors and names offered by Ben & Jerry’s. Now that they are owned by
a soap company, the brand has lost a bit of its luster. But if you are looking
for excitement in your ice cream, we’ve got the brand for you.

Start with whip-yielding
dominatrices. (Please don’t ask me why I know what the plural form of dominatrix
is.) Add slogans like “God Save the Cream.” Place the retail store in Selfridges,
one of the largest high-end retail locations in London. Finally, feature
a male-targeted ice cream cocktail named The Sex Pistol, which is laden
with libido-boosting ingredients akin to Viagra as well as a shot of Absinthe,
served in a pink water pistol that is ready to be… well, you get the picture,
right? Welcome to the world of The ICECREAMISTS!

It’s ice cream gone
bad boy. It’s ice cream theater. It’s a way of taking a product that is available
at every gas station, every convenience store, every supermarket, every McDonald’s,
and then executing it in a remarkable way to make certain that the brand rises
above the clutter.

Spend some time on
their website – (Warning! It is a bit loud
if you are looking at it while at work).

When visiting their
site, and reading about how they position their offering, think of the things
that you might be able to do to really create some uniqueness in the way your
product, your service, your company, or for that matter, you are presented to
your prospects or your customers. While we aren’t suggesting you don a dog collar
and stilettos (not that there’s anything wrong with that), there are other ways
in which you can become remarkable!

As for the Ice Creamists…you
have to love the fun. It does bring a whole new meaning to whipped cream.

Discussion Questions:
What do you think about how The Icecreamists brand has put a new twist
on the ice cream category? What lessons does its early success reveal
about breaking through the clutter? Can you think of other product categories
that could use a similar shake-up?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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15 Comments on "BrainTrust Query: We All Scream for Ice Cream"

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Paula Rosenblum
11 years 8 months ago

I think we’re probably more ready for a first step: to have the ice cream makers stop making packages smaller and smaller and think we’re not noticing. Edy’s has gotten about 20% smaller in the past 6 months. Before I go ga-ga for ice cream, I’d like to know the manufacturers don’t think I’m a moron. Acknowledge “Honey, I shrunk the ice cream.” Say it funny, say it matter-of-fact, but at least be straight up about it.

What do I think the next big thing is in ice cream? Bring on gelatto!

Marc Gordon
Marc Gordon
11 years 8 months ago

Before we get all hot and excited over S&M ice cream, lets start with the basics. First, their web site may be high on show, but low on go. I went through the entire site and am still having a hard time understanding the concept. Is this a retail operation or an adult themed dairy fest?

Second, if this is in fact a combination of showmanship and retail, I have to wonder how many people will actually buy, or just watch with their noses pressed up against the frosty glass.

Let’s wait and see where this goes a year from now.

Kevin Graff
11 years 8 months ago

Don’t have much time to type this…have to hurry and catch a plane to London to see this place and get my ice cream fix! Wow! This place isn’t about the ice cream, and that’s why it works. It’s all about selling the concept and the experience. Forget moving past the clutter, this breaks the consumer out of the boredom of shopping these days.

What retail category couldn’t learn from this example? This should be a mandatory ‘stop’ on any retail learning tour.

Doug Stephens
Doug Stephens
11 years 8 months ago

The Icecreamists is a fantastic example of the kind of break out thinking that so many retailers could benefit from. Unshackling yourself from the paradigms and conventions of your category is often the first step to becoming remarkable and breaking through the noise. Bravo.

Ice cream just grew up!

Max Goldberg
11 years 8 months ago

The Icecreamists may have put a new twist on an old product, but what will they do when the initial glow of being new and different is gone? Will they really shake up the category? That remains to be seen.

Joan Treistman
11 years 8 months ago

The musical question is “Are you ready for this?” The answer: No.

Cultural differences from one side of the pond to the other are definitely a barrier to the Icecreamists in the US. From the logo to the basic concept or back again, it has too dark and too sinister a positioning to compete with the fun loving, almost as American as apple pie or Haagen Dazs to attract a loyal following. I believe that ice cream is all about the taste and flavors…right here in the good ol’ US of A.

Once a year when the ad(vert) awards are given we love to watch the British commercials and their special brand of humor. But we don’t use their approach here because it just won’t be effective.

The bottom line for ice cream or any product is the ability to generate sales through solid marketing strategy and satisfy consumer expectations. Icecreamists may have a niche in England, but I don’t think there is substantial opportunity for the branding strategy in the United States.

Bernice Hurst
11 years 8 months ago

This website exposed my (usually deeply hidden) inner prude. The thought of nipping into Selfridges to see the show intimidates me even though I am likely to go right past the door at least once or twice while it’s on.

The approach of targeting men in such a location also seems wrong. Selfridges is not frequently frequented by young(ish), cool(ish) men. Not even nerd(ish), touristy men unless accompanied by female companions. Although there are more men out and about these days than usual, this is likely because they are newly unemployed and therefore even less likely to be hanging out in Selfridges and interested in ice cream.

Bottom line–I think the whole project is ill-conceived and will be very interested to see if I am right.

Bob Phibbs
11 years 8 months ago

Food prep has always made great theater from Julia Child to Benihana to Coldstone Creamery. The theater does come at a price which is why so many Coldstone’s have closed because once you get past the “wow” factor, the crew gets bored with singing for tips and the customers realize they drop a $20 for ice cream with no theatrics. Farrell’s in SoCal is trying to make a comeback with ice cream as well–no stiletto updates.

The thing which is compelling in almost all “food as theater” is that it gets the servers/employees excited about the concept which rubs off to the customers. The more ways we can find that in something as mundane as women’s foundations, soap or suits, the more we can lift retail sales.

David Biernbaum
11 years 8 months ago

I dream of the day when we return to having true differentiation, not only for ice cream but also for uniqueness in chain drugs and supermarkets. In this current age of SKU rationalization, IRI, and all other practices that drive product assortment and decision-making through the rear view mirror, it’s almost too obvious that competition has been reduced only to price and which traffic lane clears first to determine a consumer’s preference as to which parking lot she turns into.

Attention Retailers: dare to carry something different! Surprise your customers! Carry some delicious specialties and unique offerings not yet being tracked by IRI! There are profits to be made in differentiation! And by the way, not every logo needs to be red and blue, and some different colors inside on your interior walls might be “amazing” enough!

Cathy Hotka
11 years 8 months ago

I think the real question here is whether an adults-only ice cream joint can make money.

But I’m with Paula–most of us would be happy with ice cream cartons that didn’t look like Barbie accessories.

Rick Moss
11 years 8 months ago

Just a note that although Ben & Jerry’s is now owned by “the big guys,” their activist roots are still intact. From a 9/1/09 press release:

“Ben & Jerry’s, known for its euphoric ice cream flavors and dedication to social justice, celebrates the beginning of the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples in Vermont with the symbolic renaming of its well-known ice cream flavor “Chubby Hubby” to “Hubby Hubby.” In partnership with Freedom to Marry, Ben & Jerry’s aims to raise awareness of the importance of marriage equality and, to show its support, will serve “Hubby Hubby” sundaes in Vermont Scoop Shops throughout the month of September.”

Sandy Miller
Sandy Miller
11 years 8 months ago

Ice Cream should, if at all possible, be sold to shoppers in stores, ideally near the place where she can enjoy what she is buying. The relevant example might be a deli where shoppers buy meats for sandwiches made on site and for home use.

John Boccuzzi, Jr.
John Boccuzzi, Jr.
11 years 8 months ago
This ice-cream brand reminds me of where television and news has gone over the last 10 years; down hill. Instead of news channels focusing on quality reporting they focus on the SHOCK factor. This is the same trend with television shows and the craze around reality TV. The downside is we as consumers have been desensitized to this over the last few years and it no longer impacts our decision to watch a particular news station or tune into the next ridiculous reality show. Icecreamists falls into the SHOCK factor initially, but then what? Will the girls on the web be wearing even less? Tough to do. Will the music be louder? If their product does not taste better and/or the price is out of tune with competitors will they continue to grow or for that matter hold any share they gain during their SHOCK intro phase? I like to believe that over time, consumers are smart enough to quickly get over the SHOCK and focus on what really counts: Good old fashion quality at… Read more »
Matt O' Connor
Matt O' Connor
11 years 8 months ago

Thanks for your comments folks. It’s really interesting to get feedback (good and bad) but I should say that there is serious substance to this project. This is freshly made artisans gelato made in a purpose built kitchen and we spent a lot of time in Italy developing the recipe. The reason why I created The Icecreamists is because I love fresh ice cream and because I understand Ben & Jerry are no longer involved in their brand. We need a challenger ice cream and one that will convert the world to freshly made ice cream–not production ice cream. We’d love you to visit and check us out as we are serious, serious aficionados!

M. Jericho Banks PhD
M. Jericho Banks PhD
11 years 8 months ago

Hey, Bernice, you’re over there. How’s the ice cream? Is it any good? Seems to me that’s fairly important, but nobody’s talking about it.


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