This past Tuesday, November 11, the world’s largest ice cream chain introduced camouflage to its stores in honor of Veterans Day. The three-flavor, multicolored concoction consisted of chocolate (brown), salted caramel (tan), and cake (green).
Not surprisingly, consumers’ reactions to the special edition were somewhat “cool.” While many people appreciated Baskin-Robbins’ efforts to support veterans, fewer were enamored by the actual product, particularly the ice cream’s appearance, which is not especially appetizing.
Strong social equity with poor product performance makes Baskin-Robbins’ camouflage ice cream “Simple-Minded” marketing, right? Maybe not.
While Baskin-Robbins undoubtedly hoped to sell more cones and sundaes than usual on the 11th, the success of the initiative shouldn’t be measured just by ice cream sales. In fact, the real ROI may stem from the promotional value of the camouflage flavor, i.e., all of the free publicity that the company garnered thanks to a wide variety of news media picking up the story and sharing snippets of it on TV, Internet, etc.
Of course, that coverage also helped to generate a lot of goodwill for Baskin-Robbins as people learned that the firm donated 10 cents per scoop of every ice cream flavor sold that day, not just camouflage, to the United Service Organizations (USO). But the company’s support of U.S. military did not stop there.
Through the media coverage people also could learn about Baskin-Robbins’ “veteran’s incentive program” designed to help veterans start their own businesses by waiving the $25,000 franchise fee and offering a “0 percent royalty rate for the first two years of franchise ownership, and a reduced rate for years three through five.”
So, did Baskin-Robbins really mind if some people found its camouflage ice cream unappealing? Probably not. The novel flavor’s real value came through creating buzz, generating goodwill, and potentially gaining some new, and very deserving, franchisees. All said, Baskin-Robbins' camouflage ice cream was a “Mindful Marketing" victory.