Young chefs add flavor to Marble Slab Creamery's branding efforts

Marble Slab Creamery (MSC) developed its "Celebrity Sundaes" campaign as the cornerstone of a comprehensive overhaul of the brand image.

Young chefs add flavor to Marble Slab Creamery's branding efforts

Client: Marble Slab Creamery (New York)
PR agency
: Ogilvy PR (Atlanta)
Celebrity Sundaes
June-September 2009

Marble Slab Creamery (MSC) developed its "Celebrity Sundaes" campaign as the cornerstone of a comprehensive overhaul of the brand image.

"Our brand wasn't easily differentiated," notes Jenn Johnston, SVP of brand marketing at NexCen Franchise Management, MSC's parent company. "We needed to reposition the brand inside and out around a gourmet ice cream experience. One of the people that created the ice cream was a chef, and we'd lost that history."

Longtime agency Ogilvy, which handles PR for all six NexCen brands, helped to design and drive the effort to reconnect the brand with its chef-driven roots, build buzz, and drive store traffic.

The team decided that partnering with chefs to introduce new sundae creations would be the best branding strategy.

"High caliber chefs are particular about brands they connect themselves with," Johnston says. "The brands need to have the same food integrity the chefs put into their creations, so it gives us a nice endorsement."

Ogilvy SVP Steven Rice explains that the team capitalized on the popularity of Bravo's Top Chef series by working with Platinum Rye Entertainment to partner with three of the show's chef contestants. Fabio Viviani, Carla Hall, and Jeff McInnis were asked to create signature sundaes for MSC's summer menu and represent the brand.

"A program with multiple up-and-coming chefs allowed us to maximize results on a limited budget," he adds. "Partnering with more than one chef let us showcase more products, use their images in more places, and have more media appearances."

The chefs did two days of national media tours for consumer broadcast and print outlets. Each chef also did a media tour and one-day in-store appearance in a local market - Houston; Asheville, NC; and Anaheim, CA.

The team pitched broadcast segments that focused on summer entertaining in a down economy. Print and radio pitches focused on ice cream recipes and ingredients.

The chefs wore MSC-branded coats for media interviews and in-store appearances. Their images and names were also on all promotional materials, including banners in all 300 MSC stores, the Web site, a Facebook page, and press materials. Johnston says each chef also communicated about the program on their personal Twitter and Facebook pages.

A coupon was offered exclusively at to drive site and in-store traffic. Rice says the team also targeted coupon and mom bloggers.

MSC's Facebook fans increased 106% since the campaign began, from 17,000 to 37,000-plus. Through their personal social media pages, the chefs reached more than 11,200 people (4,358 on Twitter, 6,886 on Facebook).

Johnston says the number of people who sign up for e-mails from MSC has risen 65% since the campaign started. Media impressions totaled nearly 109 million in outlets such as Fox & Friends, USA Today, New York Magazine, and Radio Disney.

Johnston also notes that franchisees reported "widespread redemption" of the coupon, while stores saw sales and traffic boosts from the chefs' appearances.

"This was an extremely cost-effective way to get massive brand awareness," she says.

Ogilvy will continue working with MSC and other NexCen brands. Johnston adds that the team is currently promoting "Club Marble," a launch of three new "grown-up" milkshake flavors.

PRWeek's View
Kudos to this team for recognizing how much leverage they could get out of using three up-and-coming chefs from a popular TV show. Often, clients can insist on a big celebrity regardless of whether or not it will actually maximize results. Although Marble Slab Creamery is a gourmet brand, ice cream is a relatively inexpensive indulgence. This team was wise to tie broadcast pitches to summer entertaining during a down economy. It got great coverage without compromising the brand's gourmet positioning.

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