Ms. Smith, who has spent much of her 14 years with the company promoting Slurpee at the store level, felt the best way to rejuvenate interest in the slush drink was to make it hot among a new consumer audience.
"A lot had been the same with Slurpee for a long time," says Ms. Smith, 36, category manager for fountain, Slurpee and soft drinks. "Sales were a little stagnant. Of our customers across the board, 85% said they had tried Slurpee and liked it but they hadn't had one for a while."
Southland set forth to lock into the minds of males age 12 to 24 that Slurpee was something "cool." That meant totally revamping the 28-year-old product Ms. Smith calls "a true piece of Americana."
"We redesigned the cup, added a new domed lid and colored straws. We also worked with Coke on new flavors like `yellow lemonade,'*" she says. "We wanted a product kids would want to be seen with while they were Rollerblading down the street."
Ms. Smith and company bet that when the kids weren't in-line skating, they were watching MTV: Music Television. With the help of J. Walter Thompson USA, Chicago, they came up with an advertising/promotion campaign that reached teen-agers and young adult males through MTV and a popular summer 1993 movie, "Super Mario Bros."
In doing so, they injected a new phrase into that youth group's lexicon: "Brain Freeze."
"We wanted a buzzword that triggered a connection with the new youth group and the product. `Brain Freeze' is something everyone experiences if they drink a Slurpee too fast," she says.
The strategy has sales of Slurpees burning. From May to December 1993, Slurpee sales were up 9%. In the first quarter of 1994, sales rose 14%. Cool.