AT COUNTER: ICE CREAM GIANTS STIR FOR SUMMER

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The nation's three biggest ice cream and yogurt chains are dishing up big campaigns for the summer selling season.

Baskin-Robbins today breaks its most extensive marketing effort to date, accompanying what VP-Marketing Larry Kurzweil terms a major brand repositioning. The $18 million campaign from new agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Los Angeles, supports Baskin-Robbins' Yogurt Gone Crazy line of hard-scoop frozen yogurts, with names like Boom Choco Choco Laka and Raspberry Cheese Louise.

National TV, radio and print ads carry the tagline "Baskin-Robbins-where wonders never cease." In the TV spots, a mad scientist mixes new yogurt flavors in his laboratory; Glendale, Calif.-based Baskin-Robbins will feature the character in future new-product ads.

Baskin-Robbins held a 10.8% share of the $3.7 billion market for ice cream and yogurt sold in foodservice establishments in 1992, according to restaurant consultancy Technomic, Chicago. With system-wide sales of $2.2 billion, Dairy Queen is the clear segment leader, with a 43.1% share. But Mr. Kurzweil said Baskin-Robbins' main competition comes from ice creams and yogurt sold in supermarkets. "We are fighting for the consumer who sits on the couch with a quart of ice cream," he said.

Baskin-Robbins has placed renewed emphasis on research & development, exploring new product lines that may include gourmet coffees. The marketer last month introduced its Cappuccino Blast ice cream drink.

The chain's new push also focuses on the dormant kids marketing program. In the past, Baskin-Robbins has used its Birthday Club to send children coupons for free ice cream cones.

The chain now hopes to grow its database and offer members birthday kits including coupons from toy companies; Baskin-Robbins is negotiating with several toy marketers, Mr. Kurzweil said.

Also hoping to cash in on marketing to children is International Dairy Queen, Bloomington, Minn., rolling out its first-ever kids marketing campaign.

Regian & Wilson Advertising & Public Relations, Fort Worth, Texas, a regional agency handling advertising for 800 stores in Texas, has run a kids program for several years in that state and won the national kids account last year.

The spot TV and print ads use longtime spokescharacter Dennis the Menace to promote "DQ's Kid's Pick-nic," which allows children to pick a choice of entree, dessert and premium prize.

TCBY, Little Rock, Ark., the leading frozen yogurt chain, last month returned to the airwaves after a three-year hiatus to combat plummeting profits. A $6 million campaign from Stone & Ward touts the chain's low-fat flavors and upcoming holiday cake promotions.

TCBY was once a hot chain, riding the craze for frozen yogurt. Then, a proliferation of soft-serve machines in the market stalled TCBY's sales and sparked anger from the franchise community.

Aggressive expansion into non-traditional locations helped TCBY make somewhat of a comeback in 1993; profits were up 26% to $6.4 million, though still a far cry from 1989's $29.5 million.

TCBY last year opened an astounding 752 non-traditional locations in airports, highway rest stops and hospitals, and now has 1,500 free standing units.

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