Hitting the Sweet Spot – The story of how a premium ice cream rode the big wave to the top.
Setting The Scene: Treading Water
Something wasn’t right. As Kevin Cahill looked over at the line of people waiting for ice cream at his Bandy Brooks outlet in Dublin’s Dundrum Shopping Centre, he felt vaguely dissatisfied.
To the casual observer, it looked like business was booming on a typically busy Saturday afternoon but Kevin knew that it could be so much better. Elsewhere, at the Centre’s other snack concessions, similar queues were forming for ready-mix formula ice creams and Kevin believed that his premium handmade ice cream, crafted in the soft Australian style and filled with handfuls of natural fruit and nut flavours, tasted much better. He didn’t just think it was so, customers had told him so.
So why wasn’t he doing so much better?
Deep down, Kevin knew it was because of the brand. He had previously traded successfully as part of an Australian-themed franchise selling ice creams and chocolates, and had made the change to Bandy Brooks in order to set up on his own but he could see it wasn’t working. Whilst the candy-pink signage and livery of the brand were appealing enough, he conceded that the story of Bandy Brooks, an adventurer who had run off with an Indian girl and traded cocoa from South America, had little to say to the shoppers in Dundrum Shopping Centre.
And so he turned to Gerard and the team at Islandbridge to help him craft a new story.
Chasing The Next Big Wave
At their first meeting, Kevin shared his own thoughts on where Gerard might look for inspiration. He had even coined a working-title for the project, Aussie Ice, a name that spoke of his conviction that the answer might lie in the land down under.
Following his lead, Islandbridge team set to researching not just the shoppers at Dundrum but the popular image and culture of Australians, most especially in their traditions of beach and barbecue.
At Dundrum, the team quickly saw that most shoppers were there to visit the many fashion outlets that line the arcades. They also speculated that someone who had just purchased a pair of skin-tight jeans was unlikely to indulge straightaway in what they perceived to be a fattening treat.
Immediately, the notion of locating a brand of ice cream in a culture that prizes both athletic prowess and a healthy appetite for life made sense.
Research into Australia’s love of the outdoor life, particularly the beach, suggested even more elements that made for a good fit. With surf-culture finding its way into mainstream fashion through a range of successful clothing brands, the Australian pursuit of the next big wave, allied with the easy camaraderie of Aussies everywhere, offered the opportunity to create a lifestyle brand that celebrated a ‘sun-kissed playground of the gods’.
The team decided to position the new brand as a sweet reward, a favourite of golden-haired and golden-skinned athletes, which could be enjoyed without guilt after a busy afternoon’s shopping.
This positioning would also enable the brand to draw on the popular motifs of South Seas beach life that are part of our popular perception of the Australian paradise: exotic fruits and gorgeous flowers that would reflect in turn in the bright colours and sharp flavours of a natural, handmade ice cream.
Catching The Wave
So what happened next?
The working-title, Aussie Ice, was quickly adopted as the name for the new brand and Kevin decided to drop his other lines of refreshments and sell ice cream exclusively.
The graphic designers at Create were briefed to fashion a visual identity that would hold out the offer of a ‘sweet reward for a favourite of the gods’ and reflect the zestful, exhilarating lifestyle of the Australian beach and those who chase the next big wave.
The primary audience for this offer was to be ‘the sun-worshipping athlete in all of us’, seeking a treat after the exertions of our afternoon. Naturally, this could easily extend to anyone who wished to participate in the healthy, outdoor camaraderie of the Australian beach or barbecue.
The outcome was a fresh and distinctive identity that features a custom-made script and an exotic flower icon that sets sea & sky blue and floral pink against an ice cream-white background in order to evoke a surfer-cool lifestyle.
The visual language was extended to include images of sand and surf and the brightly coloured boards and bathing suits of the sun-worshipping athletes.
Riding The Wave
Over a long weekend in late summer, just as the tidal waves of recession were crashing over Ireland, Kevin refitted his Dundrum outlet in the new Aussie Ice signage and livery.
When Gerard called Kevin the following weekend to find out how the new brand was faring and didn’t hear back, he feared the worst. Had Aussie Ice been pulled down in the vicious undertow that was striking Irish retail?
He needn’t have worried. When Kevin did call back soon afterwards, it was to report that business under Aussie Ice was so good that he had run out of supplies of ingredients that first weekend. At times, the queues forming for ice-cream had been over three times as long as before.
As Kevin puts it: “I can’t exaggerate the effect the new branding had. Despite the fact that we’d been trading in the same location since the Centre opened, many customers said that they’d never noticed an ice cream outlet there before. People loved what they saw. There is no doubt that they connected with Aussie Ice in a way that they never did with Bandy Brooks.”
One year later, when retailers across the country are reporting their lowest sales in years, Aussie Ice has recorded a steady increase in ice cream sales of 56% (and in overall sales of 26%). Kevin also reports that the decision to specialise in ice cream and drop supporting lines has had an even greater impact on profitability.
Backed by a strong brand that makes a real difference, and supported by a mouth-watering display system and by shop assistants who know how good the ice cream is because they’ve made it themselves, Kevin is now looking at fresh opportunities for Aussie Ice.
“It’s hard to describe what Islandbridge did for us because they helped us in so many ways, from helping us get our story right to sourcing and briefing the designers. But I can say that the transformation in our business since we started working with them has been dramatic. If you want to push your business forward, I can’t recommend Islandbridge highly enough.”
Kevin Cahill, Proprietor, Aussie Ice
Brand Direction: Gerard Tannam (Islandbridge Brand Development)
Naming: Kevin Cahill (Aussie Ice)
Design: Owen Barry (Create)