[interview] Snack break: Unilever on marketing for Ice Cream Lovers

Sebastien Deneux defines himself as’ frontman of the ice cream tribe from Unilever ‘and ensures that this strain is at its best. Sometimes he says to play the concierge, sometimes marketing coach and sometimes the troubleshooter. Marketers, sales and R&D must work together to create the ultimate ice cream lover experience to offer, according to this marketer. Within one strategy.

How does the tribe work together?
‘Ice cream is nice. It is joy, indulgence and refreshment. It is relevant for all ages. We strive to appeal to all ages with our different brands. For example Magnum Chocolate Indulgence is for the chocolate lovers and on the other hand you have Ben & Jerry’s, which is more for the Peace & Love soul. Some like new innovations and others like the classics. For scoop ice cream we have Hertog and for the heat wave we have Ola with water ice for a fresher take. Our portfolio and strategy is a great puzzle that appeals to all target groups, ages and channels. It is not that I am eager to add extra brands. There are few areas that we do not touch, because many people buy different ice cream brands from Unilever. This makes you think about the positioning of these brands to limit cannibalization between different brands. You have to coordinate the tribe properly. They have to be positioned in such a way that they support each other. ‘

Do you still encounter contradictions in the target groups?
‘You have the Ben & Jerry’s lovers, who like exciting flavor combinations, “dense” ice cream with pieces. And there are the ice cream lovers, who like light, “warm” ice cream with a softer feel. The silver generation is more into the ice cream parlor like the ice cream parlor, while the millennials have grown up with Ben & Jerry’s, which they prefer. The nice thing about the diversity within people is that they can suddenly make a choice switch. So there are basic categories, but it is possible to avoid them. ‘

What lessons have you taken and were able to take with you from previous jobs?
‘The great thing about Unilever is that you can assume different roles. I started in sales in the Netherlands, then in foods for Knorr and Conimex to return to the Netherlands via Margarine Europe and Global. The rich package that you take with you to combinations of Sales, brand building, execution and brand development at the Global team ensures that you can appreciate the magic and logic. I love a good pricing strategy as much as I love a newly developed campaign. Learning different categories within various market dynamics is incredibly enriching. ‘

There are many large companies in your field, but also small niche companies. How do you feel about that?
Over the past ten years, the number of artisan ice cream parlors has tripled and even increased six-fold in major cities. As a result, the competitive field of ice cream is very diverse. We have to deal with the big boys, but also with the niche players. See, for example, companies that are further developing low-calorie ice cream or vegan ice cream. Those are new players. They started as a start-up and have grown strongly and are now trying to enter the European or global market. I want everyone to fall in love with ice cream. When the market grows, we also benefit from it. I mainly see us as market developers. In terms of competition; it keeps you on your toes. You see a lot of companies coming and going. Viable growth within ice is not easy. We are seen as the captain of the category. ‘

What are the consequences of Covid-19 for you?
The plans were ready for the best year ever and then came corona. The lockdown has had a huge impact on our direct business like all our out-of-home channels: De Ola cabinets, showcases, gas stations and on the beach. It has forced us to tilt and focus more on the supermarkets. We noticed because everyone was at home, there was a need for a little pampering. We have also accelerated home delivery. The great thing about a Ben & Jerry’s is that it is perfect when delivered to your home. We made a switch from traditional sales to channels that were in full use. ‘

What is your greatest success in this position for yourself?
‘Proud of the growth moments of the ice cream market. Last year, ice cream has only become more popular, I’m glad about that. It’s top of mind. When people talk about ice cream, it always comes with a smile. In addition, we have given the freezer street more color. We appeal to a younger target group and therefore keep the freezer compartment modern and relevant. There has also been a lot of growth in the past year in the pints: the snack bucket that everyone can spoon out of on the couch. I am extremely proud of the growth of these premium pints. ‘

Do you have a personal favorite?
‘No, because it’s like asking a father which child is his favorite. The diversity is what I think is fantastic. It is great to be able to switch between the different brands within the ice cream portfolio, with their own worlds and personalities. And to be in a different process every time. ‘

Is there a dream product you would like to create?
‘I would like soft ice cream in the supermarket. And a cheap consumer ice cream maker, such as a Nespresso machine. There is nothing better than freshly made ice cream. We can use that to make more ice cream lovers. ‘

Does ice cream communication have specific sides?
‘As Unilever, we have a responsibility for marketing to children. We do not focus on children, but on the parents. Information and education is key. We are constantly working on the nutritional values ​​of our products. It is not the case that all ice creams have to be part of the healthiest diet. An ice cream is of course also to enjoy. We try to offer different types of ice cream. This way everyone can make the right choice for a specific moment. ‘

This piece was created through a collaboration between Chuck Studios & MarketingTribune

Sebastien Deneux, Ice Cream Marketing Manager at Unilever

About Chuck Studios
Chuck Studios is the first global creative company specializing in food. Founded by Ellen Gaedtgens and Olaf van Gerwen in 2011, the company helps brands around the world develop a distinct culinary identity. Using their expertise in food specialist film production combined with creative and strategic capabilities, the team creates high-end content for brands such as McDonald’s, KFC, Unilever, Bon Appétit and Heineken. Chuck Studios has its headquarters in Amsterdam and offices in Moscow, London and Los Angeles. ‘
(source: Chuck Studios)

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