Of ice-creams and emotions

Ever wondered how exactly Cause Marketing works? It always intrigued me and sometimes interested me. Well ok, it does speak about a brand rallying behind an apparently noble cause, about an ostentatious association with some non profit/not for profit/not so non profit organizations to give them a better muscle to drive their endeavors etc. But if I were to apply some rational analysis to dissect how it makes business sense, the over all picture never always looked robust to me. It looked short lived and more as a tactic rather than as a long term association with a cause that translated to long term business results. Yes, I do know that there are certain brands that are known for their long term commitment and support to some noble causes. But again, as I said, it eludes me as to how they translate to a sustainable competitive advantage to the brands in the long term.

But now I guess I am beginning to connect the dots. I agree what I have discovered might not hold good in all cases. But in most cases, it does speak of a sound business case (if executed well). I agree that it is not a radically new thing that I am speaking about here. In fact it could just be a formalized way of  approaching a branding challenge that we have known intuitively all along. Let me explain.

Let’s speak about the Super Premium ice – cream category.  This is a category where people are literally flooded with options – Ben & Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs, Sheer Bliss, Dreamery, Godiva, Pink Berry, Marble Slab Creamery, Dippin’ Dots and the list goes on. For a brand that is well entrenched and wants to gain share from competition, what does it need to do? Well, that’s what Haagen-Daz’s faced towards late 2007. So what did it do and why did it do?

What did it do?

Simple. It invented a cause. Yes! it almost did. Ever heard about Haagen-Daz’s Vanilla Honey Bee flavor? Well, it’s a fancy name for a flavor that has some droppings of honey on it. Yeah, but why that name? This was a new flavor launched in February 2008, that was created expressly to support actions to arrest and reverse the sudden decline of the honeybee population, which, because of pollination for flowering plants, is a direct risk to the production of all food brands. (Source: Bob Gilbreath).

The deal is simple. It donated a portion of its sales from all honey flavored ice creams to a research. So, it developed a website that increased the awareness about the issue in a way that gave exposure to the brand – and thereby brought forth a very humane element out of a super premium ice cream brand. Besides many other executions to communicate its affiliation to this cause, it came up with a first of its kind magazine ad – a plantable magazine insert. That’s right – an ad that can be planted! Check this out: (source of image)


  • Haagen-Dazs fulfilled its full-year PR goal of 125 million media impressions in just the first two weeks!
  • Brand advocacy for Haagen-Dazs among consumers reached 69 % (the highest among 19 brands tracked)
  • Unaided brand awareness grew from 29 to 36 %
  • And over all sales increased by 16 % for the brand in 2008

(Source of results: Bob Gilbreath)

The first 3 outcomes are understandable and expected, given the way in which it went about making some noise worthy sound bytes in the media space – metrics like brand advocacy, unaided brand awareness for a period of time can be driven by pulling the right emotional triggers in the consumers’ minds. But sales? How can it really impact sales? I mean businesses and brands do not sail on the crest and troughs of some short lived whims and emotions of the consumers right? That could be suicidal. One moment you can see a spike in all brand metrics and the other you are no where.

So the question is – How exactly did Haagen-Dazs’s cause marketing strategy work in order to result in an over all sales increase of 16% for the brand and a commensurate gain of share in 2008?

It was literally a ‘Eureka’ moment for me when I could connect the dots (all by myself) and arrive at the right way of articulating it. I learnt many things on the way. Would share my learnings with you – very soon. In the meanwhile, any thoughts how it has resulted in actually increasing its sales by 16%? (That too in a category like Super Premium ice-creams, in which consumers have a very strong inertia to switch).

Do post your comments. Let’s explore.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s