Cold Stone Transforms the Ice Cream Social With Facebook

social media case studiesIce cream has always been social. But Cold Stone Creamery has found a way to make it even more so—with Facebook.

The American ice cream retailer, known for pounding and slapping customized creations on a “cold stone,” has long been a favorite of ice cream lovers – enthusiasm that has helped churn out 1,459 locations in the U.S. and 16 countries.

Like many retailers, the company long relied on traditional advertising to spread the word. But a YouTube video contest in 2005 set the company on a social media course.

Today, Cold Stone continues to innovate outside the kitchen, recently releasing what may be the first eGift feature on Facebook, and running contests that get thousands engaged even more deeply with the brand.

The payoff goes well beyond greater customer engagement; Cold Stone’s promotions add to the bottom line by moving people from their computers to physical stores.

Organization: Cold Stone Creamery

Social Media Handles & Stats:

Website: ColdStoneCreamery.com

Twitter: 2,460 followers

Facebook: 830,478 fans

YouTube: 26,251 views since channel created in June

Highlights:

  • A new eGift Facebook feature added $10,000 in incremental sales to franchisees in just a month and a half.
  • With social media, Cold Stone averages a cost of about 39 cents per coupon redeemed compared to $3.60 per redemption with print advertising.
  • The company added 66,000 new fans over about an 8-week period with a flavors contest.
  • A Facebook coupon increased sales 1 to 1.2%.
  • 14% redeemed the coupon compared to .02% in the past.

$10,000 from eGift Sales

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve likely either given or received a virtual “gift” or widget from a friend, an icon such as a birthday cake or heart. These virtual tokens of affection allow friends to express their care.

This July, Cold Stone made eGifting more tangible. Now you can send Facebook friends a code for an actual ice cream creation eGift, ranging from $5 to $7, right from the Cold Stone Facebook fan page for delivery via Facebook or email. Like a gift certificate, recipients can instantly redeem the gift at any of the retailer’s American locations by showing a printout or the code on their mobile phones.

egift

Cold Stone’s eGift Social uniquely allows Facebook friends to send codes for tangible gifts.

For a viral effect, the eGift shows up in the recipient’s News Feed on Facebook, so all friends can see it.

One of the first brands to enable eGift Social, created by First Data Corporation, Cold Stone links its social media presence directly with sales.

“The strategy, and really our goal, for eGift was more for that everyday gift,” said Suzanne Schutz, vice president of marketing at Cold Stone Creamery. “So, Veronica is having a bad day. I see that she posted something on her Facebook status. Very easily from the office in 2 minutes, I can spend $5 and send her an ice cream, and it makes her day.”

So far, the results are impressive, delivering on Cold Stone’s goal of increasing revenue for its many franchisees.

“We’ve sold in just over a month and a half, about 2,000 eGifts and we’ve added roughly $10,000 in incremental sales to the franchisees,” Schutz said. Franchisees love it because they don’t have to do anything. It’s no extra labor. It’s all done in the virtual world, if you will, and then they just watch the sales come in. So they love it. We love it. Our fans love it. It’s definitely a win-win.”

Coupon Boosts Sales More Than 1%

In direct response to Facebook fans’ requests, Cold Stone decided to run a 2-for-$5 coupon campaign. The retailer posted the offer on its Facebook page and notified contacts by email.

Just 3 weeks in, fans had printed more than 500,000 coupons, with more than 20,000 of those from Facebook. Clearly, the campaign went well beyond just pleasing customers.

“Since we launched the campaign, we’ve seen sales increase just about 1 to 1.2%,” Schutz said. “We’ve seen a redemption rate of over 14%. For me as an advertiser, that’s a great ROI. For traditional advertising we would have spent upwards of $500,000 and we would have seen less redemption. I think our average redemption was .02%. So far, it exceeds what traditional advertising and print do.”

Fans ‘Eat Up’ New Flavors Contest

A summer flavors contest additionally drove fans to the company’s Facebook page and stores. Nearly 4,000 people entered the contest requiring them to post creative comments of 50 words or fewer about one of three featured summer flavors available in stores.

While official judges chose the winners based on originality, all entrants could share their entries and encourage their friends to vote for theirs. Entrants shared the news more than 3,000 times and more than 1,800 people voted through the application created by Wildfire Interactive.

“We saw 66,000 new fans over about an 8-week period,” said Anne Christenson, director of social marketing. “Obviously, it helps us gain some fans.”

The winners earned a trip to the Scottsdale, Arizona headquarters to work with the Cold Stone taste master on creating their own flavors. From there, Cold Stone will pick its favorite flavor to roll out at stores across the country in 2011.

flavors contest

A new flavors contest brought in 66,000 new Facebook fans.

Lowering the Cost of Sales

Cold Stone has made social media a major part of its marketing strategy, setting a goal of increasing traffic to stores by 3% through social media and non-traditional advertising like email, while reducing advertising spend.

“My main priority is profitability in driving sales,” Schutz said. “It is a lot less expensive than traditional advertising, say, a national billboard campaign or newspaper insert.”

The retailer focuses on four or five key promotions throughout the year, getting the attention of customers through Facebook, email, Twitter and YouTube. On YouTube, the company posts footage from events like its annual “World’s Largest Ice Cream Social,” which benefits Make-A-Wish Foundation.

So far, every campaign with social media has brought a spike in store traffic and sales. Combined with lower marketing costs, the team has truly added to profit margins.

Currently, Cold Stone averages a cost of about 39 cents per coupon redeemed, compared to $3.60 per redemption with print advertising. Now more than half of the company’s advertising budget is dedicated to non-traditional activities like social media.

All that contributes to the company’s goal of raising sales for its many franchisees.

“We let our fans know about our new product launches or programs like eGift and our new flavors. And, in turn, we hope that our fans get excited about it, and then that drives them into our store, and ultimately makes the sale,” Schutz said.

Cold Stone Creamery’s Recipe for Social Media Success

Monetize Facebook – Cold Stone generates income through its eGift Social feature while not being overly salesy; the gift aspect changes the online sales dynamic.

Tie in with franchisees – The corporate Cold Stone site includes a local tab that allows fans to enter their zip codes to find local franchise Facebook pages.

Maintain brand consistency – If partners or franchisees have their own pages, provide suggested posts and content to help maintain the brand image.

Innovate with apps – Add-on apps for Facebook help run the eGift feature and contest voting.

How is your organization successfully driving visitors from social media sites to your shopping carts or cash registers? Let us know your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Casey Hibbard

Casey Hibbard is Social Media Examiner's case study writer. She is also president of Compelling Cases Inc. and author of Stories That Sell: Turn Satisfied Customers into Your Most Powerful Sales & Marketing Asset. Other posts by »




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  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com Michael A. Stelzner
  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com Michael A. Stelzner
  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com Michael A. Stelzner
  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com Michael A. Stelzner
  • http://twitter.com/chriskoene Chris Koene

    What a great example of a company leverage social media so effectively!

  • http://twitter.com/chriskoene Chris Koene

    What a great example of a company leverage social media so effectively!

  • http://twitter.com/forgecomm Forge Communications

    Terrific illustration of how FB/sm can be used successfully AND cost-effectively. Thanks for sharing.

    ‘Course now I wanna get a triple mix-in . . .

  • http://twitter.com/forgecomm Forge Communications

    Terrific illustration of how FB/sm can be used successfully AND cost-effectively. Thanks for sharing.

    ‘Course now I wanna get a triple mix-in . . .

  • http://daviddoolin.com/ Dave Doolin

    Casey, this is best article I’ve ever read here on SME. A real company, with real numbers and real results. So many other people writing in this space just trot out that same old stuff that everyone already knows.

  • http://daviddoolin.com/ Dave Doolin

    Casey, this is best article I’ve ever read here on SME. A real company, with real numbers and real results. So many other people writing in this space just trot out that same old stuff that everyone already knows.

  • http://www.mazakaro.com Rahul@MazaKaro

    this is for sure the best way to be successful using the social media, certainly FB , i have enjoyed evry single part of the post since i find it interesting to know about such details cause managing needs some efforts : thank you for sharing this amazing post

  • http://www.mazakaro.com Rahul@MazaKaro

    this is for sure the best way to be successful using the social media, certainly FB , i have enjoyed evry single part of the post since i find it interesting to know about such details cause managing needs some efforts : thank you for sharing this amazing post

  • http://twitter.com/golftrainer golftrainer

    This is very cool. I drive by their headquarters almost daily here in Scottsdale. We go there once in a while, but prefer yogurt instead.

  • http://twitter.com/golftrainer golftrainer

    This is very cool. I drive by their headquarters almost daily here in Scottsdale. We go there once in a while, but prefer yogurt instead.

  • http://www.dickiearmour.me.uk Dickie Armour

    What a wonderful story of the effectiveness of social media!
    This is a great one for those focused on the ROI. Brilliant case study.
    I think other companies can follow suit and use some of these examples in their own business. Even if they’re not in the ice cream business it still works.
    Getting engagement from your customers by asking them their opinion on new product ideas and services is a great idea!

  • http://www.dickiearmour.me.uk Dickie Armour

    What a wonderful story of the effectiveness of social media!
    This is a great one for those focused on the ROI. Brilliant case study.
    I think other companies can follow suit and use some of these examples in their own business. Even if they’re not in the ice cream business it still works.
    Getting engagement from your customers by asking them their opinion on new product ideas and services is a great idea!

  • http://twitter.com/mayvintraining Francine Bishop

    So many small business owners ask me the same questions – how do I get a roi for the time I would have to spend on social media? This is how! What a perfect example and a great story too! Thanking you.

  • http://twitter.com/mayvintraining Francine Bishop

    So many small business owners ask me the same questions – how do I get a roi for the time I would have to spend on social media? This is how! What a perfect example and a great story too! Thanking you.

  • http://thefranchiseking.com/about-joel-libava-the-franchise-king The Franchise King

    Casey,

    Thanks for reporting on this very positive social media success story in franchising. My industry needs it!

    One thing;

    With all the weird viruses out there, I wonder how many potential “fans” and customers are not clicking the hearts etc, for fear of it being a nasty link?

    Connect With The Franchise King®

  • http://thefranchiseking.com/about-joel-libava-the-franchise-king The Franchise King

    Casey,

    Thanks for reporting on this very positive social media success story in franchising. My industry needs it!

    One thing;

    With all the weird viruses out there, I wonder how many potential “fans” and customers are not clicking the hearts etc, for fear of it being a nasty link?

    Connect With The Franchise King®

  • http://www.livyahyarnblog.com Livyah

    Good information. I was actually just wondering today about how other businesses are using social media successfully. Sometimes a case study is more valuable than the theory.

  • http://www.livyahyarnblog.com Livyah

    Good information. I was actually just wondering today about how other businesses are using social media successfully. Sometimes a case study is more valuable than the theory.

  • http://twitter.com/papayamaya Maya Grinberg

    What an awesome collection of cases from Cold Stone! I knew they were engaging with a huge number of excited fans with their Wildfire campaign, asking them to express their opinions about the new summer flavors, but I didn’t know about the rest of Cold Stone’s extensive and successful social media strategy. Awesome writeup!

  • http://twitter.com/papayamaya Maya Grinberg

    What an awesome collection of cases from Cold Stone! I knew they were engaging with a huge number of excited fans with their Wildfire campaign, asking them to express their opinions about the new summer flavors, but I didn’t know about the rest of Cold Stone’s extensive and successful social media strategy. Awesome writeup!

  • Jo-zanne Owen

    Fantastic example of not only how social media can be leveraged but how it can be integrated with existing marketing strategies.

  • Jo-zanne Owen

    Fantastic example of not only how social media can be leveraged but how it can be integrated with existing marketing strategies.

  • http://donnygamble.com Donny Gamble

    This is no surprise to me and can see tons of businesses start to jump on the social buying bandwagon.

  • http://donnygamble.com Donny Gamble

    This is no surprise to me and can see tons of businesses start to jump on the social buying bandwagon.

  • http://twitter.com/drewschulthess Drew Schulthess

    Awesome post Casey! Ice cream is definitely perfectly aligned for social media. I have heard chocolate and sweets have been trending upward in the down economy as they bring comfort to people. It’s cool a strategy that is so closely connected with overall sales goals. I wonder how they come to those calculations that social media is powering results and not other forces like seasonality etc. It would be cool to find out.

  • http://twitter.com/drewschulthess Drew Schulthess

    Awesome post Casey! Ice cream is definitely perfectly aligned for social media. I have heard chocolate and sweets have been trending upward in the down economy as they bring comfort to people. It’s cool a strategy that is so closely connected with overall sales goals. I wonder how they come to those calculations that social media is powering results and not other forces like seasonality etc. It would be cool to find out.

  • http://hherbzilla.blogspot.com/ Herb

    Nice article!

    What annoys me about their coupons is that (unless something has changed) they require you to install special software in order to print them. I’m not inclined to install software just to print a coupon.

  • http://hherbzilla.blogspot.com/ Herb

    Nice article!

    What annoys me about their coupons is that (unless something has changed) they require you to install special software in order to print them. I’m not inclined to install software just to print a coupon.

  • caseyhibbard

    Thanks Dave! It was a pleasure capturing their story. It can be hard to find companies that have measured the real $ impact.

  • caseyhibbard

    Thanks Dave! It was a pleasure capturing their story. It can be hard to find companies that have measured the real $ impact.

  • caseyhibbard

    Thanks Dickie! They have really tried hard to deliver value to their franchisees, and it paid off.

  • caseyhibbard

    Thanks Dickie! They have really tried hard to deliver value to their franchisees, and it paid off.

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Francine,

    Exactly. You have to find specific way sto monetize the activity. Thanks!

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Francine,

    Exactly. You have to find specific way sto monetize the activity. Thanks!

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Drew,

    With the e-gifting and coupons, they know exactly how much revenue those generated, instead of just general increases in sales that may or may not be related to social media, seasons, etc.

  • caseyhibbard

    Hi Drew,

    With the e-gifting and coupons, they know exactly how much revenue those generated, instead of just general increases in sales that may or may not be related to social media, seasons, etc.

  • http://www.tmonlinemarketing.com Tammy

    Very smart move on their part. This is something that other companies are certainly going to take notice of.

  • http://www.tmonlinemarketing.com Tammy

    Very smart move on their part. This is something that other companies are certainly going to take notice of.

  • St01569

    Wow I had no idea you could actually send your friends a coupon via Facebook. What a great way to get your name out there and increase your business. The Gold Cone Contest is a good idea too. Other food based businesses should try this. I love this article!!

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  • Brammage

    The “special software” is simply a print driver from the coupon vendor. The coupon vendor offers such coupons on behalf of many advertisers, and they all print via the same driver. This is how the coupon vendor is able to limit the number of valid coupons printed. It’s also a way to prevent copies as the valid coupons have distinct features that don’t appear on copies.
    The coupons only print out via the vendor’s print driver, and the vendor can limit the number of coupons each user prints, and also can limit the total number of coupons printed by all users for each offer.

  • http://www.teamcreatives.com/ JohnDeSenio

    That’s cool. This kind of strategy I hope could work in anyone who has Facebook.

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  • http://www.marblepolishing.net/ Marble Floor Polishing

    It was a pleasure to come across this site!

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  • http://alexander-broers.com/ Alexander Broers

    Great article thanks alot. I like how their campaign is simple yet effectiv e and employs the majority of mainstream social media channels.

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  • http://www.squidoo.com/best-laptop-under-700 John Kavan

    Great marketing strategy. Just by seeing the pictures on their site makes a person crave for an ice cream with even nice convenience of having the ice cream without needing to leave the place at all.

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  • Priscilla Harnesk

    A short term solution to a long term problem. The couponing is beneficial to the value minded consumer and does provide a blip in sales for the corporation but it is disasterous for the franchise owner. In good times we make a 15% profit. Most of the coupons are BOGOs. You do the math.It doesn’t take many to hurt already struggling stores. I have not seen one of the send a friend a coupon coupon in my store; plenty of the BOGOs that customers photocopy (numerous times) There are so many problems with online couponing.  With Cold Stones closing every week Corporate needs to take a look at solutions that will help rather than hurt the franchise owner. The number of stores listed in the article is now much lower and Suzy Schutz is no longer at the helm of the Marketing Department.

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  • http://www.volvant.com/ Margaret Esme

    This is the advantage of using social media in building your sites campaign and promoting your products.  

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  • Looch

    Can anybody give me an example how how this might affect Cold Stone’s demand forecasting? And their operations division in general? Would be much appreciated :)







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