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ICE CREAM REVEALS ITS STEAMY SIDE: MAGNUM BARS TEMPT, TEASE, YOUNG ADULTS WHO SET TRENDS ACROSS EUROPE

By Published on .

When Jean M. Callanan became international brand manager for Magnum ice cream three years ago, Unilever didn't have any other international brand managers for food, which the company considered less global than detergent or personal care. Today the company has 11 international brand managers for ice cream alone.

Magnum, a chocolate-covered ice cream bar aimed at adults, is a fast-growing $1 billion-plus brand sold in more than 60 countries-the biggest impulse ice cream brand in the world.

A key part of Magnum's growth strategy is to find "new consumption occasions" for the ice cream bar, usually an impulse buy on a summer afternoon, Ms. Callanan said. A lively Irish woman based in Rome, Ms. Callanan has strategic responsibility for Magnum globally and operational responsibility for Europe, working closely with Unilever's worldwide ice cream headquarters in Rotterdam.

FRENCH CONNECTION

At a time when Unilever is redefining the delicate balance of power between international and local management, Magnum is a colorful example of how to grow a newly global brand by encouraging local ideas that can add to the international strategy. If those ideas work, they soon travel.

For example, Unilever is letting Fabio Mancone, a young Paris-based Italian product group manager, test the limits with Magnum in France. He has put Magnum bars in stylish chrome vending machines in 25 trendy nightclubs in Paris. At a Parisian fashion show, models munched Magnums on the catwalk. And Mr. Mancone's team recently scoured France for 150 caricaturists to sketch shoppers who purchase Magnum three-packs.

DARKEST DESIRES

Following up on successful international ad campaigns that encouraged people to eat Magnum at home and during the winter, rather than just outdoors in the summer, Mr. Mancone has focused on developing a new segment: Magnum at night.

"All trends are set at night-it's the time people get unreasonable," said the irrepressible Mr. Mancone.

To get away from ads he said focused on the brand's "functional values," he identified emotions that could be linked with Magnum, like passion, obsession and irresistibility.

"We aimed at playing with the [young adult] target [audience] with emotional values, without breaking too many of the rules," he said, "because, after all, we are Unilever."

Mr. Mancone worked on an integrated communications program with Magnum's global ad agency, Ammirati Puris Lintas, public relations company Shandwick and sales promotion and direct marketing company Wunderman Cato Johnson. Last year, the group identified 150 events and venues associated with the night, including parties, discos, musical festivals and fashion events, as outlets for public relations and sampling.

This year, Mr. Mancone's team also linked Magnum with the night by surveying 1,000 people ages 20 to 30 about their evening lifestyles-how they dress, where they go and with whom. The results were widely picked up in the media as the "Magnum poll."

Although television is Magnum's main medium internationally-with MTV Europe added last summer-glitzy posters are being used in French nightclubs as well. The posters show a trendily dressed girl in front of a giant letter "M."

Internationally, a "Magnum at Night" TV spot is running in about 20 countries. The message is clear: This is ice cream for adults. Eyes closed, a woman in a slinky black dress wraps her mouth around a Magnum bar, oblivious to her surroundings. The voiceover speaks her thoughts: "We're night people, me and my Magnum ... an evening without Magnum, it's like a night without stars."

A series of three posters is also being used internationally, showing a woman's crimson lips biting first a Magnum wrapper, then the bar and finally the empty stick.

TALES FROM THE FRONT

Mr. Mancone's success in France has him appearing frequently in a quarterly newsletter that shares ideas Magnum product managers have tried in different markets.

"Local brand managers have always been one of Unilever's strengths," Ms. Callanan said. "The vast majority of our advertising is international, but you are dead if don't have a local perspective on the market as well as an international one."

Magnum itself is not adapted for local markets but some countries have their own flavors, like a strong coffee variety for Italy and a white chocolate-covered cappuccino version in Germany.

In France, Magnum has about 25% of ice cream on a stick sales and 60% of the adult impulse market within that segment, Mr. Mancone said. He expects Magnum's sales to grow about 12% in France this year, despite a slide in ice cream sales due to dismal summer weather.

To compete more directly with Magnum, rival M&M/Mars has launched a stick version of its successful Mars ice cream bar, but the line extension has not been a hit. Another competitor, Nestle, has rebranded its chocolate-covered ice cream bar, Galaxy, with the name Mega in several markets.

Magnum launched in 1989 in six European markets, but the brand began to take off internationally only three or four years ago. Today, the ice cream treat's big gap lies in the U.S., a market Unilever's non-U.S. brands often enter slowly or not at all Dick Newman, VP-marketing of Unilever-owned Good Humor/Breyer's, Milwaukee, said, `'We have a magnificent brand in Klondike, which is the leading premium novelty ice cream in the States," with a 7% share.

Contributing: Rebecca A. Fannin, New York.

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