Healthy ice-cream brand Halo Top’s sales have rocketed by 2500% to 28.8 million pints in 2016 and $US132.4 million in sales
- The brand’s ascent can be attributed to a well-orchestrated marketing strategy that included a focus on social media, particularly Instagram
- The ice-cream maker just launched its first national digital campaign recently as it looks to broaden its audience
Four years since it first hit supermarket shelves, “healthy” ice-cream brand Halo Top blew up last summer. Its sales rocketed by 2500%, with the brand selling 28.8 million pints in 2016 and generating $US132.4 million in sales, according to data from market research company IRI.
The proliferation of Halo Top’s low-calorie, protein-packed pints, however, was no accident. Sure, the healthy promise of the product itself played a big part, but the brand’s ascent can be attributed to a well-orchestrated marketing strategy, focusing on word of mouth marketing, partnerships and social media, particularly Instagram.
“We started off really focused on digital and social, with more than 90% of our efforts on Facebook and Instagram,” Lenny Chase, Halo Top’s vp of marketing, told Business Insider. “We’re 100% a digitally native brand.”
Halo Top’s social social posts are the epitome of food porn, featuring its signature bright packaging interspersed with swirls of its colourful flavours in photos as well as GIFs.
The approach has clearly resonated. According to data crunched by social media analytics company Socialbakers, the Halo Top’s social media following have grown from over 27,000 to over 603,000 on Facebook, and from over 339,000 to 488,000 followers on Instagram over the past one year.
“Halo Top has established a clear and compelling brand voice, using social media to bring that voice to life in a fun and conversational way,” said Hannah Post, senior strategist at global branding firm Siegel+Gale. “When a brand makes developing a distinct voice a priority, and leadership is devoted to its success, it shows.”
Like any upstart marketer on Instagram, partnerships have too been key to Halo Top’s rise. While the ice-cream maker says it has never paid digital influencers to endorese its brand, Halo Top has promoted ther health and diet-focused brands, such as OhYeah! One bars and Fitjoy bars in its social media feeds in exchange for similar promotions from these companies.
Halo Top also recently took a page out of “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” and put golden tickets for free prizes in select packages last month. It also makes it a practice to regularly respond to fans on social media, said Ryan Bouton, the company’s director of communications,
That may seem like a lot of work for a bootstrapped company, which started off with five employees, to do. But in the past year since it exploded on the scene, Halo Top has expanded to about 40 full-time employees.
This growth is also the reason that the company finally launched its very first advertising campaign, marking its evolution from last summer’s trendiest breakout brand into “the perfect pint.” It continues to handle its own social and digital media efforts in-house.
“We had reached an inflection point, where it was important for us to not only target a broader audience, but also experiment with new mediums,” said Chase. “It was time for us to try out video, and we just didn’t have the resources to do that in-house.”
Two weeks ago, the brand launched its maiden ad campaign with agency Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners, playing on the “halo” in its name to pit an angel and a devil against each other, with the devil complaining that eating a pint of ice cream no longer feels sinful.
The national campaign launched on social channels and digital platforms such as Hulu on June 29, and has seen over 35% people of people targeted engage with the brand in some form, according to the company.
“The aim was to take the brand beyond their core audience,” said Steve O’Connell, partner and chief creative officer at the agency. “But it was important for the brand to retain its authentic voice and not alienate its existing devoted and loyal fan base.”
The campaign will also help against traditional competitors in the category, who are increasingly encroaching on its territory. “Healthy” and “clean” products within the ice-cream category are seeing the maximum growth, according to Nielsen, with categories growing by 85% and 36% each in 2016. And established brands, including Ben & Jerry’s and Nestle are making inroads in these categories.
“When niche brands begin to play alongside more traditional competitors, experimenting with traditional media spend can be an effective way of gaining traction and market share,” said Siegel+Gale’s Post.
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