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Ben & Jerry’s: Aggressive Customer Acquisition During “Low Season”

Customer Acquisition Ice Cream

You think your business has customer acquisition issues? Consider the plight of ice cream manufacturers and retailers during the winter months!  Eating ice cream – let alone buying it – during the cold winter months is about as counterintuitive as buying sunglasses in London, England, where clouds and rain are permanent symbols on the weather forecast.  Yet January to March is an important time of the year for supermarkets selling ice cream and even more so for manufacturers.

Supermarkets and manufacturers like to keep freezer shelves stocked with ice cream during the winter months as a form of advertising; the consistency of seeing the ice cream labels during low season increases product desire when the weather heats up.

It’s Hot to be Cold

Many manufacturers lay low and cut costs during the low season. Toy makers, for example, hold most (if not all) of their marketing budgets for the Thanksgiving to Christmas time period. The “strike when the iron’s hot” strategy seems to work for them. However, what  revenue or opportunity is left on the table by not actively attempting to acquire new customers during the rest of the year?

For manufacturers like Ben & Jerry’s, the low season of January to March is seen as the perfect time to acquire new customers.  Where many firms use the low season to cut costs by decreasing activity, Ben & Jerry’s becomes more aggressive. Each year it introduces new specialty flavors during the winter months to entice reticent consumers to purchase their cold treats.

Today, Ben & Jerry’s announced the launch of three new flavors, which join the brand’s existing “core” lineup of ice creams that have such fillings as fudge, caramel, and raspberry jam. The new products are Boom Chocolatta! Cookie Core, Peanut Buttah Cookie Core, and Spectacular Speculoos Cookie Core. The center of the ice cream has a texture that’s kind of like cookie dough, but crunchier, says John Henry Siedlecki, senior brand manager at Ben & Jerry’s.

Buy When the Market is Down

Real estate and financial moguls will tell you that the secret to success is  buying or investing when the market is poor, not when the market is booming.  For manufacturers, those moments when the competition is lying low or periods when a product or service is less convenient might be the optimal time to be more aggressive with customer acquisition budgets and strategies.

Low season is also a good time to experiment with new products or service offerings, which can help differentiate the brand.  At a minimum, the strategy will help maintain an ongoing dialogue with customers, just when their attention would otherwise be diverted elsewhere. When the product is back in season, the brand is top of mind.

Augment Your Service or Product Offering

Another strategy would see the development of a new, complementary product or service that is better suited to the time period, yet still supports the overall brand strategy. Intrawest, a North American mountain resort and adventure company provides a great case study here. The property development firm has taken many ski resorts including Blue Mountain in Ontario or Mont Tremblant in Quebec, which were clearly seasonal businesses, and built summer-only activities such as mountain coasters, bike lifts and trails, etc. to drive new traffic and customers in the off season.

I encourage you to look at traditionally slow sales periods as opportunities, which provide fertile ground for customer acquisition programs if you decide to lean in and be aggressive.  If you’re not launching a new product, look for other events that you can use to rally content marketing and/or customer engagement around, such as customer appreciation event, sponsorship of “national day” or similar. The point is, new business does not come to those who rest.

Sensei Debates

Marketing in low season is too expensive and too risky for the possible rewards. Agree/ Disagree? Why?

Join the conversation in the comments below.


Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego


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