Dessert chains venture into Barbie land with their latest marketing push

Marketing Bites: Pinkberry and Cold Stone Creamery feed into the Barbie frenzy, Dunkin’ launches summer merchandise and Taco Bell is giving rewards members a say in its sauce packet redesign.
Barbie themed desserts
Pinkberry and Cold Stone Creamery have debuted Barbie-themed products. | Photos courtesy of Pinkberry and Cold Stone Creamery

marketing bites

Dessert chains are taking diners to Barbie's dreamland in a flurry of pink and sprinkles. Restaurants continue to lean on nostalgia, with more chain mascots from the past making a comeback. Also this week, we learn just how passionate sauce fans can be.

Pink products galore

If browsing through the latest frozen-treat LTOs, you might think you’ve been magically transported to Barbie's pink-splattered dreamland. With the "Barbie" movie premiering this Thursday, restaurants have been quick to lean into the Barbie aesthetic by launching products inspired by the film, which has generated quite the buzz online.

Pinkberry, for instance, teamed up with the movie’s production company, Warner Bros., on a marketing push tied to the movie. Last month, the frozen-yogurt chain launched a new flavor: Barbie Land Berry Pink Swirl. The flavor combines dragonfruit and strawberry and is finished with glittery Dream Sprinkles. For customers who can’t get enough Barbie, Pinkberry is also offering the chance to win themed prize packs, which include movie tickets, Barbie merch and Pinkberry gift cards.

Cold Stone Creamery is also diving into Barbie mania with its own flavor inspired by the movie and a limited-edition themed custom cup. The cotton candy-flavored ice cream, is available in one of the chain’s signature creations and in a cake. The creation, All that Glitters is Pink, features the signature flavor with graham cracker pie crust, dance party sprinkles and whipped toppings. The brand's Best Day Ever! cake is made with layers of yellow cake and pink cotton candy ice cream with dance party sprinkles, topped with frosting. Cold Stone is also holding a sweepstakes, offering diners the chance to win themed prizes, including the grand prize of a Barbie Dreamhouse.

Dunkin’s summer merch

Iced is arguably the best way to drink Dunkin’s coffee. And in the spirit of summer, the coffee giant is leaning into that with its new Iced collection. The collection has everything fans of the chain could want, from crop tops and oversized tees to a pickleball set and inflatable donut pool.

Dunkin's pickle ball setA Dunkin' branded pickleball set. / Photo courtesy of Dunkin'. 

Sauce packet democracy…

Taco Bell is letting its rewards members in on its sauce packet redesign. For me, the sauce packet is an integral part of the Taco Bell experience, and bringing fans into the decision-making process is a smart move from the taco chain. It’s interactive, it’s fun and it lets customers have an impact on the brand’s messaging.

In the past, the sauce packets have been branded with messages like, “you’re my favorite,” “good choice,” or “hot one.” But it seems Taco Bell is getting a bit more creative with its messaging, featuring new options like “What’s your @” for the mild sauce and “Don’t think, just do” for its fire sauce. Each of Taco Bell’s five sauces has three new sayings, and rewards members have the chance to cast their vote for their favorite.

…and sauce emojis

People take their sauce seriously. (And yes, I am one of those people). Wingstop tested the limits of that sentiment with its line of Bathe in Ranch soaps earlier this year. Now, some sauce fans want to do more than just take a sauce bath. They want a sauce emoji. One of these sauce enthusiasts, the chicken chain Zaxby’s, even launched a petition to create the first sauce emoji, or as Zaxby’s calls it, the saucemoji.

Zaxby's sauce emjoji petition There's a push for a sauce emoji. / Photo courtesy of Zaxby's. 

Revamping rewards programs

People also take rewards programs very seriously. Some Dunkin’ customers were very displeased when the coffee chain changed up its loyalty program last fall. One of the main gripes with the altered program? Members now must spend more to earn a reward. This week, Del Taco changed up its rewards program with an emphasis on engagement. But perhaps more exciting to the Del Taco crowd is that the chain lowered its rewards point threshold and added a tier, providing guests with the opportunity to earn rewards faster. Additionally, rewards members can now earn vanity badges for completing activities and obtain bonus points by completing in app challenges.

Feeling nostalgic?

McDonald’s recent marketing push featuring the classic character Grimace brought a sense of nostalgia for a lot of customers. And the promotion did exceedingly well, driving sales throughout the campaign.

Now, perhaps hoping for the same success, Quiznos is bringing back Spongmonkeys, a strange, rodent-like character last featured in its commercials in 2005.

The Taco Tuesday fight is over

Also this week, Taco John’s gave up its claim to the Taco Tuesday trademark, asserting that fighting for the trademark was too expensive. It's instead opting to donate to the nonprofit Children of Restaurant Employees.

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