In a recent conversation with a chief technology officer, he asserted all digital technology changes in his organisation were being led by IT and not by marketing. It made me wonder: How long a marketing function like this could survive?
Baskin-Robbins has overhauled its agency stable and will unveil an online ordering system and digitally driven customer loyalty program this year as it looks to aggressively grow its Australian brand presence.
In an interview with CMO, the ice-cream brand’s local marketing manager, Geraldine Van Der Merwe, said one of her first priorities since joining the team four months ago was to streamline key agency partnerships. The ambition was to not only bring in specialist skills, but also ensure partners were collaborating more effectively on brand messaging at a national level, she said.
The agency review has seen Baskin-Robbins appoint its first social media agency, Blue Flame, as well Carat as its media agency. It has also recruited Follow as its digital and creative agency and consolidated its printer partnerships to a single national contract.
“This creates the foundations for us - we’re now in a position where we feel we can achieve growth and deliver against our business growth plans,” Van Der Merwe said.
After a tumultuous few years, Baskin-Robbins announced its intention to grow its Australian business in 2013 off the back of the new Palm Oasis Ventures, a joint venture between the US parent company and master franchise owner, Galadari Brothers Group.
Last year, the company revealed plans to open another 20 stores in Australia in the next 12 months combining both company owned and franchise businesses. It plans to launch 200 additional outlets over a 10-year period.
While a number of the latest shopfronts are in its stronghold states of Queensland and Western Australia, the company is focused on expanding its presence in Victoria and NSW. A lot of work has already been done on programs to help propel franchisee growth profitably and sustainable, Van Der Merwe said.
We now have a more integrated marketing approach with our new agency partners so we can have a consistent message across every media channel
Marketing’s key role is growing and driving brand awareness regionally and nationally, she said. To do this, Baskin-Robbins is making larger investments into social and digital channels as well as content to help consumers gain a clearer and more consistent understanding of the brand. The objective is to equally drive customer acquisition as well as retention, she said.
“We’re focused on growing our brand stature, but we need a bit of brand reinvigoration as well,” Van Der Merwe said. “We now have a more integrated marketing approach with our new agency partners so we can have a consistent message across every media channel.”
Van Der Merwe said a big focus will be on educating its ‘guests’ about the 31 core flavours, as well as how they can combine different flavours to “create memorable moments”.
“We have monthly and annual promotional activities, program campaigns, and new products coming into the market, which is key to keeping up the excitement and driving higher frequency,” she said.
Customer loyalty initiatives
A major project for van Der Merwe this year is the relaunch of the Club 31 loyalty program as a digitally driven offering. While initially planned for the start of this year, she said technical difficulties integrating the new-look platform with point-of-sale systems means it’s now scheduled to launch in late Q2.
Members will have the choice of using a traditional card or mobile app in-store, and can access an online membership portal. This digital capability, in turn, will give Baskin-Robbins more data points on its customers as well as the ability to target offers and information based on behavioural and location information.
The company is working to integrate its current Club 31 member databases into the new platform as well as educate franchise partners, Van Der Merwe said. She declined to disclose the total number of Club 31 cardholders in Australia but claimed a large and loyal base.
“Customer knowledge is key as a marketer, and understanding guest behaviour is critical in future program development and delivering against their needs,” she continued. “We need to understand who our guests are psychographically, as well as where they are based in the [customer] lifecycle.
“We must make sure we communicate appropriately to our target market. We have a wide demographic and while we need a consistent message, we need to look at how to deliver that to target markets moving forward. We have data from our existing loyalty program but we want to widen the types of information we ascertain via digital channels, such as purchase behaviours and location. That is what we are currently challenged with.”
For example, while the current program associates individuals to a store location, details such as frequency of visit or purchase history are not yet being captured and utilised, Van Der Merwe said. To help its data-driven quest, Baskin-Robbins is looking to bring on a customer data specialist.
More on customer loyalty programs: How Supercheap Auto used big data to model customer loyalty
4 brands making customer loyalty programs work
Why Fitness First is dropping its customer loyalty program and turning to data
The second significant technology-led project on Van Der Merwe’s list is an online ordering system, due in Q3. She highlighted growing product lines such as the Baskin-Robbins’ signature cake series and custom design cakes both presented enormous growth opportunities online.
“These two big projects will drive lot of growth in the business and more awareness of the brand,” Van Der Merwe added.
With such growth ambitions, and many smaller initiatives underway around partner engagement and incentive programs, Baskin-Robbins is in the process of hiring an additional marketing resource.
Van Der Merwe said she looked forward to the challenges ahead and was excited by the growth opportunities available to the brand. She pointed to strong growth in the overall ice-cream category in Australia.
“Our ‘why’ statement, and why we exist, is to make people happy by creating unforgettable memories. We happen to sell the world’s favourite ice-cream to do that,” she said.
“It’s a fun brand with such growth potential. We have been in Australia for 25 years and around for 70 years, but this is a brand that is still in growth and awareness phase,” she added.
pictured: Baskin Robbins celebrate the new Manly store opening in October 2014