SMB Digital Marketing: Ben & Jerry’s Franchisee Talks Marketing

Top insights into franchise marketing were provided today at SMB Digital Marketing, courtesy of Hunter Rose, owner of three Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Stores, and longtime local executive and consultant Robyn Rose. Hunter Rose, a former Gartner analyst, is also head of Ben & Jerry’s franchisee group.

At the store level, Hunter Rose said his marketing efforts were built around the idea that Ben & Jerry’s isn’t just the great ice cream store down the street, but also is a major member of the community with food donations to community events and local organization, and producer of events such as free scoop day (which attracts 32,000 customers every year). “We build local affinities for guerilla marketing,” he said.

One indirect result? People remember the store when they have catering needs. The stores have a a top 3 national ranking among Ben & Jerry’s stores as caterers, which is the most profitable part of the business.

There are also efforts that are coordinated with the national brand people. Ben & Jerry’s requires two percent of revenues to be spend on corporate “magical media dollars”, although franchisees are free to opt-in for specific promotions, such as Groupon deals. Rose said he participates in these, even though deals he develops on his own are typically more attractive in terms of the offer and commissions. The stores also do especially well with highly tailored marketing efforts, such as Pinterest, which are a great way to reach women.

Robyn Rose, as a consultant (and former Superpages VP) handles the three stores Pay per click campaigns. Last year, the stores did 23 campaigns. “It is a little bit heavy,” Rose concedes. But it gets good results. Getting exposure on search engines is a very high priority. “SEO is what works best,” she says. Pay per call efforts don’t do as well.

As franchisees, there are inevitably going to be some different areas of interest, noted both Roses. Some national efforts may not effectively target local consumers, for instance. Loyalty programs are another issue.

“I really wanted Ben & Jerry’s to build their own loyalty program,” said Hunter Rose. But it isn’t a loyalty program for us. It is for the consumer. Franchisees are always going to be looking at the ROI.

Hunter Rose is hoping that Ben & Jerry’s builds robust e-commerce tools that can accept payments. Taking orders over email and the Web that aren’t prepaid doesn’t always work. Some orders are emotional orders dealing with divorces and other issues. “Sometimes you want to get paid in advance,” he says.

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