Cold Stone Ditches Vanilla Look, Gets Pretty for TV

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- How far will a company go to win a coveted product placement in film or top prime-time TV shows? Cold Stone Creameries completely revamped its plain-vanilla packaging to catch the eye of producers who continually passed it over for rivals that stood out better on camera.

The ice-cream retailer plans an April rollout for the extreme makeover of its take-home containers -- a move driven largely by the fact that the company, which does not buy traditional advertising, relies heavily on entertainment marketing to reach consumers.

Out are the sterile white plastic tubs that the company previously used and in are four-color paper containers that come in three sizes. The vibrant red color and graphics are supposed to reflect the atmosphere of the company's stores -- one in which an overly energetic crew of staffers serenades customers while mixing up customized creations. The company's logo remains virtually untouched.

"The packaging creates a better visual representation for us," said Cold Stone spokesman Kevin Donnellan.

When the brand appeared in CBS's "Two and a Half Men" late last year, a character was shown eating from one of the company's gallon-sized buckets. Despite the container size, Cold Stone's logo was hard to identify, and the product almost seemed generic.

The appearance on the hit sitcom represented 36 seconds that Cold Stone considered a coup, but it was also a wake-up call. It may have landed a prime spot on a hit show, but it was starting to lose out on other high-profile opportunities. Producers and prop masters didn't consider the containers attractive, causing the product to be removed or, worse yet, replaced with a rival's container.

Cold Stone had already been planning on revamping its look, but said that its increased reliance on product placement as a marketing tool forced executives to speed up the process. "There were a number of reasons why it needed to be upgraded but this was one that was the final straw," Mr. Donnellan said.

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