Consumer: Ice cream parlour milks media furore

Experimental ice cream brand The Ice-creamists asked Taylor Herring to help launch its first restaurant in Covent Garden. The Icecreamists wanted to garner mass media attention and drive footfall during the opening week. There was no additional marketing support for the launch, so a completely PR-led idea was required.

Baby Gaga: Taylor Herring's breast milk ice cream campaign courted controversy
Baby Gaga: Taylor Herring's breast milk ice cream campaign courted controversy

Campaign The world's first breast milk ice cream - 'Baby Gaga'
Client The Ice-creamists
PR team Taylor Herring
Timescale January-March 2011
Budget £7,500

Objectives

  • To create mass media attention in print, online and broadcast media in the UK
  • To drive footfall into the restaurant during the opening week.

Strategy and plan

After in-depth research, Taylor Herring and The Icecreamists founder Matt O'Connor decided to produce the world's first breast-milk ice cream and name it Baby Gaga. They hoped the idea would appeal to the brand's target audience of upmarket urbanites, as well as showcasing the brand's unusual recipes.

A £50 ad was placed on Mumsnet to find someone willing to supply their breast milk. Within 24 hours, 15 mums had come forward. Victoria Hiley - a mum and voluntary worker who promotes the benefits of natural feeding - was hired and agreed to media interviews. After health checks at a Harley Street clinic, she donated milk and the first batch of Baby Gaga was produced.

A photo-shoot was commissioned to get product shots. The PR team also filmed on-the-street taste tests and interviews. Pictures and a news release were sent to national media outlets, announcing the first tasting would be in three days' time - giving the story a second leg. The team seeded pictures, clips and comments, and spoke to journalists on Twitter and Facebook.

The PR team anticipated a visit from Westminster Council officials, as there are no Food Standards Agency guidelines for using breast milk in food products. So it ran initial tests to be confident the product would meet health and safety standards.

Indeed, responding to two complaints from the public, the council took the product off sale for five days, generating further headlines and intrigue. However, the tests revealed no problems and the product went back on sale, yielding more coverage.

Lady Gaga's management also complained at the ice cream's name, securing extra interest from showbiz media.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign achieved eight TV pieces, including ITV's Daybreak and BBC Breakfast; 23 radio interviews including Capital FM and Radio 5 Live Drivetime; 22 print articles including The Sun and The Guardian; and 1,167 online pieces including the Daily Mail and Reuters.

It was the fifth most popular story on the BBC's website for seven days during launch week. The story also trended on Twitter globally for two days. More than 50 media outlets tasted the product.

Results

Baby Gaga sold out within two hours of going on sale. Sales at the new store in the first two weeks were 500 per cent above The Icecreamists' forecast. The media coverage generated huge interest in the brand, attracting new financial investors and international franchise interest.

SECOND OPINION - Alan Twigg, Managing partner, Seventy Seven PR

I remember watching this story with admiration as it hit. Seeing it come back twice proved that proper PR planning had been used. As a simple, clear and bold publicity stunt for £7,500,it was fabulous.

Little of genuine consumer resonance has happened in this category for years, so to see it trend on Twitter was impressive.

Importantly, it was brave - there had to be a fear that some people might cringe at the thought of consuming breast milk, but that was clearly taken into consideration. The agency knew notoriety would win the day.

The tease, hit and controversy flirting with Westminster Council and the Gaga angle were well constructed - all risks catered for. The £14-a-scoop angle did give some media the chance to have a pop, but they were trying to 'premiumise' the brand.

But I don't buy the idea that breast milk was chosen for some health mission. The Icecreamists set out to be fun, cheeky and innovative, and not to save lives. Personally, I would leave a cracking publicity stunt to itself.

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