Spoonable caramels or waffle cone pieces? Marshmallows or pretzels? Ben & Jerry's is asking ice cream lovers to make tough choices as part of its new City Churned social media campaign, designed to let people in five U.S. cities vote their own city-specific preferences for a new ice cream flavor.
Consumers in New York, Washington D.C., Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco are the target of the new campaign, which focuses around Facebook, Twitter, and a microsite where people can help create and name their city's own special ice cream flavor. Ben & Jerry's is also amplifying a promotional video posted on its Facebook page to drive people to the site, and promoting it on Twitter.
Once there, Ben & Jerry's fans can vote on the base for the new flavor, choose ingredients, decide whether it should be an ice cream or a Greek yogurt, and help name it, as well as sharing those actions on social media.
Crowdsourcing a new flavor isn't something new for Ben & Jerry's, per se, though this may be the most socially-oriented version of that yet.
"Our fans have helped us create some of our most iconic ice cream flavors like Cherry Garcia and Chubby Hubby. This social campaign is an expansion of that," says Mike Hayes, assistant digital marketing manager at Ben & Jerry's.
Nor is the brand a stranger to social media. Over the past three years, Ben & Jerry's has sponsored an East and West Coast "Scoop Truck" tour (currently in 11 U.S. cities), which lets consumers tweet at the Ben & Jerry's ice cream truck for a chance to have it stop by with free ice cream or Greek frozen yogurt.
This new campaign ties into that: it will send the trucks around to serve the newly-chosen ice cream at local events in the five selected cities after the 15-day voting period concludes. "Both programs are a great way to build relationships with fans in those markets," says Hayes. "We have always been a social brand focused on one-to-one interactions," he says.
The City Churned campaign also features tie-ins using localized data from transport, weather, and other sources to influence the voting results. For example, in San Francisco, on-time trains at Powell Station are automatically tallied as votes for cookie dough, whereas on-time trains at Oakland's 12th Street count as a vote for graham crackers. (At press time, cookie dough had the edge.)
And in Seattle, votes are racking up for Theo Chocolates, which get tallied whenever Mount Rainier is visible from the city. If there is a weather spell that obscures the mountain, the vote goes to yellow cake pieces.
Users who click on "Follow the Truck" can also find out when the truck is coming to their city. According to the website, the truck is currently underway in Washington D.C. on the East Coast and in Los Angeles on the West Coast (which is not part of the voting campaign) and headed shortly to San Francisco.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
March 19, 2014