Eyes on the Prize

27 Jul

Magnum ice cream bars hold somewhat of a special place in my memory. They became a family favorite years ago – but they weren’t available in the U.S.  Magnum bars thus became associated with travel, family and adventure. If you have ever been with me abroad you have probably heard me squeal when I see the familiar logo. Flavors vary quite widely by country: Spain has white chocolate strawberry, France has double caramel, Finland has mint, etc. These are important things to know, my friends. The funny part is that the treats are actually manufactured by Unilever, so it isn’t as if they come from a special niche company that only operates abroad. They just never quite seemed to make it to the U.S.

A couple of months ago I was reading through one of the daily news digests I get about the consumer goods industry and a headline caught my eye: “Unilever to launch Magnums in the U.S.”  The first thing I did was forward the article to my family with a note that said something along the lines of “Important News… and aren’t you glad I stay up to date on industry trends?” Then I started to wonder- would the everyday availability of Magnums make them less meaningful to me, because they no longer could only be acquired in certain situations? Some brands thrive on familiarity, e.g. McDonalds is everywhere and you know you can get it whenever you want. Others, like limited edition Birkin bags, thrive on exclusivity: the very fact you can’t just go and buy one makes them more desirable. As it turns out, my love for Magnum bars falls somewhere in the middle. I have definitely enjoyed seeing them all over since they launched in the U.S.,  but I still consider them the food for special occasions.

Fast forward a few weeks after the product launch to a hotel lobby in a town about an hour outside of Mobile, Alabama (yes, Alabama). I was eating dinner in the hotel restaurant and struck up a conversation with a salesman wearing a Ben & Jerry’s shirt. Since Ben & Jerry’s is owned by Unilever I made a comment about Magnums and their arrival to the U.S. I must say, my new friend the salesman was rather impressed by my extensive knowledge of the ice cream market (represent!). Then he told me that Unilever had tried to introduce Magnums to the U.S.  before and failed. The product wasn’t the same quality as abroad and the U.S. market didn’t want to cough up the money required for a “premium” product. Now, he told me, the bars would be manufactured using the same exact recipe as abroad, and the company thought that would make this launch more successful.

I guess I will need to keep an eye on how Magnums do in the U.S. market once the initial launch publicity and Rachel Bilson ads die down. But in the meantime, I came across an online promotion that I wanted to pass my readers’ way. The promo is called “Pleasure Hunt” and it’s a pretty cool concept- you play a game online that takes you through multiple websites. You control basic keystrokes like moving forward or backward, the game actually determines a path of websites to show you. Some of the websites stood out to me because they advertised  familiar brands, others didn’t ring a bell. Overall though, a very interesting way to engage consumers online. I personally felt like the game went on a tad too long before it got to the final scene, but the novelty of it all made me a little more patient. I don’t think that same novelty would work the second time around though, so I hope that other companies using this technology have done their research on how long consumers will actually pay attention. Or maybe it doesn’t matter- the brand has already been reinforced rather well by the time you are a few screens in.  You can play the game here: http://pleasurehunt.mymagnum.com/?lc=en_us

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One Response to “Eyes on the Prize”

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  1. Keepin’ It Real | Culture Cookies - September 2, 2011

    […] in that category. Think Skinny Cow, fancier popsicles, etc. But then there are also my adored Magnum Bars, which are new to the U.S. market and 100% NOT healthy options (though […]

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