Baskin-Robbins shakes up the ice cream sundae

Photograph courtesy of Baskin Robbins

Combining two ice cream classics into one frozen treat proved to be a winning LTO for Baskin-Robbins this summer. A main reason behind the Sundae Shake's success? How it’s being sold and the marketing behind it. More than 60% of consumers say the item’s description motivated them to purchase it, according to Technomic’s MenuSurf. The treat is depicted as a “rich and creamy” milkshake with a sundae on top—fully customizable with any milkshake and ice cream flavor.

Baskin-Robbins has learned that guests are driven to innovation beyond the traditional frozen treats, says Carol Austin, VP of marketing for the ice cream chain. “In addition, we know that guests like the option to customize, so that was a key message point that we stressed when talking about our Sundae Shakes.” 

Innovating with a hybrid

The chain’s consumer research indicates that sundaes and milkshakes are two very popular ways people eat ice cream. Combining the two into one higher-priced ice cream treat means that guests no longer have to choose one or the other—a move that also bumps up checks. A small shake goes for $3.69, while a single-scoop sundae costs about $3.49. “Hybrid items are not new for Baskin-Robbins,” says Austin. “The R&D team wanted to create something that was both unique and familiar, and the Sundae Shake fits the bill. It left people asking why we hadn’t invented this before.”

Marketing craveability

The Instagrammable LTO had its own hashtag, #sundaeshakes, and the messaging around the item conveyed its hybrid appeal. “Sundae Shakes required a multipronged approach in order to reach our guests across multiple platforms, including traditional media, influencer marketing and engaging social-media content,” says Austin. On the highest volume day, 80% of the posts on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook contained positive comments, per Technomic.

Timing it right

Baskin-Robbins took advantage of the spike in ice cream sales in summer to get creative with other offers, introducing Freak Shakes in celebration of National Ice Cream Day on July 15. This LTO brought the sundae shake idea to another level with “an explosion” of wacky toppings, including cotton candy, sour candies, doughnut holes, sugar cones and rainbow sprinkles.

The result: Baskin-Robbins’ Sundae Shake, $5.99

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