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The senior brand manager for Unilever's impulse ice cream brands in the U.K. thinks the sun rises and sets with Solero. Little wonder why: Last year Giles Pearman helped make the stick ice cream, with a soft outer coating, the fastest international rollout for an ice cream brand in Unilever history.

Through advertising and an innovative sampling campaign that brought ice cream into the workplace, Pearman's team at Unilever subsidiary Birds Eye Wall's Ice Cream introduced Solero to the U.K. in mid-1994. Buoyed by overwhelming demand, the team embarked on a pan-European launch in 13 markets starting in March 1995.

By the end of last year, more than 130 million of the ice cream treats on a stick had been sold in the U.K. and Europe, surpassing Wall's original target by 10%. The company's next goal is to place Solero in more than 20 European countries by the end of 1996. Expansion into other regions such as the Americas and Asia-Pacific is said to be inevitable.

"We knew Solero gave us an international opportunity," said Mr. Pearman, 29. "We had to plan for an international rollout, so we needed a name that would work across the world-a name that was not linked to any specific language but had references to the sun."

In the mid-1990s Unilever saw a gap in the marketplace for something like Solero, a premium quality ice cream product combining indulgence and refreshment. Mr. Pearman worked with Unilever's U.K. ice cream development department to use cryogenics to create Solero's outer coating, made from a fresh fruit puree, that stays very soft even at extremely low temperatures.

Solero comes in two flavors: The original exotic fruit is coated with a mix of pineapple, mango, passion fruit and peach, while forest fruit, introduced earlier this year in eight European countries, features strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

Solero already boasts sales in the U.K. of $64 million-more than half that of Magnum, the U.K.'s biggest ice cream brand with $112 million in annual sales. Magnum, launched by Unilever five years ago, comes in four varieties.

"Like for like, Solero has more or less outperformed Magnum," Mr. Pearman said. "And since there are more [flavor] variants in the pipeline, Solero looks like it could be bigger than Magnum."

Mr. Pearman used agency

McCann-Erickson Advertising, London, to create Solero's TV-led pan-European campaign. Targeted at the 24 to 35 age group, the first TV campaign, "Fruits," went national in the U.K. in May 1995, followed by other European markets. This commercial emphasized the fruit content and soft texture.

The second TV execution, "Mind Cooler," went on air in May 1996 and ended in August. It is scheduled be used again in 1997. This spot took on a decidedly surrealistic air, with scenarios that emphasized Solero's taste, which the commercial said could take consumers out of this world "and make you high." Mr. Pearman explained: "It was important not to position it as a health product [despite the fruit content], but rather as a celebration of fruit and ice cream."

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