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Reaching ice cream lovers anytime, anywhere


Fulfilling a craving for ice cream used to require being in-store or near an ice cream van. Unilever’s Ice Cream Now (ICNOW) teams are working to change that. Whether you’re online, in transit, in a virtual world or exploring earth’s atmosphere, they’ll find a way to deliver.

Twister Cosmix at the edge of the earth’s atmosphere

How did that happen? Somehow, a six-pack of yummy Mini Magnums and other items you hadn’t planned for have made their way into your weekly online shop or food delivery order.

According to author of “The Buying Impulse”, D.W. Rook, the items are there thanks to a sudden, powerful, and persistent urge to buy something immediately.

And you’re not alone. Research by Invesp reveals the average shopper will impulse buy at least three items in 40% of their shopping trips. In the US, shoppers spend an average of $81.75 (€78.18) per session on impulse purchases, British consumers spend $267.14 (€255.53) per month.

That emotional trigger is also a marketing opportunity. To ensure consumers choose your brand when spontaneity strikes is all about knowing your audience, their trigger points and having the right infrastructure in place to deliver. Something that the teams who drive ICNOW – our Ice Cream Now division – are incredibly good at.

ICNOW was born from a crazy idea to place a cabinet in a delivery partner’s HQ to test if consumers would be interested in ordering ice cream online in the same way they order pizza and burgers.

Fast forward four years and ICNOW deliver smiles in more than 40+ countries and grew 60% in 2021 by ensuring consumers can have ice cream through three routes to purchase: Ice Cream with a Meal, Ice Cream with Groceries, and dedicated Ice Cream Virtual Stores that they can access via delivery apps.

Here are just five of the different ways ICNOW is fulfilling the needs of new consumers and delivering growth.

  1. Making the wait for a food order way more appetising

    Image of mobile phone with an illustration of a Grab app delivery driver on a scooter with an advertisement for Magnum ice cream underneath it

    Grab is South East Asia’s leading super app offering consumers food and grocery deliveries, taxi, car and bike rides, financial services and more.

    During the pandemic, demand for sweet treats, especially ice cream, rose in the region. However, movement restrictions meant that consumers couldn’t easily access ice cream products from home.

    The ICNOW teams worked with Grab to turn neighbourhood ‘mom-and-pop' grocery stores into Ice Cream Virtual Stores so consumers could purchase Wall’s ice creams via the app and have them delivered in minutes.

    To increase awareness, consumers on Grab were shown ads for Wall’s ice cream at various steps of their purchasing journey, including native image ads on users’ home pages, and power banners while their order was in-transit.

    When the consumer clicked on the ad for one of our ice creams, they were directed to the brand’s virtual store, before checking out and redeeming an exclusive deal or discount in a few simple clicks. This ability to go from awareness to conversion quickly brought results.

    In Thailand, the ad campaign, which ran for a year, generated millions of impressions, with a high click-through rate and above two times return on ad spend (ROAS).

    In the Philippines, our Selecta Happiness campaign delivered over nine times ad spend (ROAS) and exceeded the campaign sales target by around 1.5 times. To increase sales, we drove the campaign across in-app placement by having the native image, masthead, food banners and in-transit ads. Outside of the app, delivery drivers used visuals from the Grab app on their vehicles to increase awareness of the campaign.

  2. Trialling media placement to tantalise users’ tastebuds

    Food Panda home page featuring a set of adverts for various Unilever ice cream brands

    In Singapore, the ICNOW team was the first partner to work with Food Panda (part of Delivery Hero globally) to use its third-party Media Placement Advertising Portal called Citrus Ads. The team trialled two ad placements for six weeks which included the use of specific search terms such as brownie ice cream and sub-category search.

    For ad placements, we saw our media spend becoming three times more effective. Top performing products Magnum Mini Almond and Ben & Jerry Chocolate Fudge Brownie saw a ROAS of five times and three times, respectively. And ROAS at least doubled for keywords such as Magnum, ice cream pint, brownie ice cream and ice cream.

  3. Hailing an ice cream store to come to you

    Robomart ice cream van, a virtual store you can hail like a cab

    In the US, ICNOW is working with Robomart to offer consumers the chance to hail a virtual ice cream store as easily as an Uber. “You tap a button to hail the store to come to you,” Ali Ahmed, Robomart CEO and co-founder, told Forbes magazine. Once it arrives, the consumer swipes across the app to open the Robomart vehicle’s door and handpick selected products.

    They don’t have to spend time creating a basket or hunting for a specific item, and purchases are check-out free as the company uses radio frequency identification (RFID) to track products consumers remove from the van. “You literally just grab the products you want and walk away,” Ahmed says. Active users of Robomart, on average, hail a Robomart to their location 2.3 times a week, with the company recording 9% user growth and 10% order growth per week.

    “We’re thrilled to partner with Robomart to offer a new way to bring our virtual store, The Ice Cream Shop, to fans in Los Angeles in an innovative way,” adds Russel Lilly, General Manager, Unilever North American Ice Cream. “Our pilot programme with Robomart is revolutionising ice cream delivery for consumers and making it even faster to get our beloved brands to our ice cream fans. What better way to shop for your favourite ice cream than just a few steps from your front door?”

  4. Quenching real and virtual appetites in the metaverse

    Young person wearing a VR headset controlling an avatar entering Magnum’s Pleasure Museum in the metaverse

    In June this year, Magnum unveiled the first Pleasure Museum at Europe’s biggest metaverse festival, MET AMS in Amsterdam. Visitors were transported to the virtual gallery in Decentraland, where they had the chance to enjoy original artworks from previous Magnum art collaborations. Better still, they were offered the chance to order one of Magnum’s latest ice creams from a vending machine in the metaverse which, thanks to Deliveroo, was delivered to them to enjoy in real life.

    Matteo Trichilo, Head of Growth Ice Cream Now, has already worked with gaming platforms to offer players the chance to purchase in-game and have ice creams delivered on demand. For him, the gallery “was a great way to trial it in a new, emerging space and to test the consumer journey of the future.”

    “Thanks to our partners at MET AMS and Deliveroo, we have been able to simulate the ordering process of Magnum ice cream from the metaverse to real life. What’s more, Magnum became the bestselling brand on our virtual ice cream store on Deliveroo in the Netherlands during the event. We are really looking forward to developing this platform in the future.”

    “The metaverse is a hugely exciting prospect for us,” adds Federico Russo, Global Magnum Ecommerce lead at Unilever. “McKinsey research estimates eCommerce in the metaverse could reach $2–2.6 trillion by 2030.”

    And consumer appetite is there. In a recent poll of 5,700 US and European consumers by ProductsUp, 40% of shoppers said they were “excited” to buy virtual products that will “enhance their experience”. Key drivers for purchases were experiencing life-like features (46%), a faster return processes (45%), and the ability to place an order in the metaverse for a physical product that is delivered in the real world (44%). “We worked hard to ensure our first step into the metaverse helped showcase how Magnum could deliver through experiencing exciting artists in our very own virtual museum and ordering during it and ending with by enjoying a Magnum ice cream in real life,” he says.

  5. Sending Twisters into space and back without melting

    A crowd of people watching a screen showing Twister Cosmix ice lolly being launched into space

    In Turkey, Twister is the third-biggest ice cream brand after Magnum and Cornetto. Turnover-wise, it’s the biggest brand in the kids’ ice cream category, and unit leader within total ice cream aiming for 120 million sticks this year. To launch a new variant called Cosmix, the brand team decided to create an activation that was literally out of this world. Twister was launched into orbit and came back to earth without melting.

    “We started with creating excitement with the consumers by airing our ad, then an unmissable activation to engage and amaze the consumers that literally took our product to the edge of the atmosphere, which was followed by activities to own a place in consumer’s hearts,” explains Algida Turkey Snacking & Kids Brand Manager and Digital Champion for Ice Cream, Hazal Kantman. 

    It’s early days results-wise, but more than 10,000 people have engaged in the messaging and on the day of the activation, Twister recorded the highest-ever sales we made in the biggest national account in Turkey.

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