Only two days after one of America's most controversial presidential inaugurations, Dippin' Dots, the iconic brand that introduced the world to beaded ice cream, found itself unwittingly in the heat of battle. Thanks to the sleuth work of an A.V. Club reporter in an article posted on Sunday, January 23, 2017, then-Press Secretary Sean Spicer's Tweets from the past exposed his reputation, not only as a spinner of alternative facts, but a Dippin' Dots hater. ("Dippin' Dots is NOT the ice cream of the future."; "If Dippin' Dots was truly the ice cream of the future they would not have run out of vanilla cc @Nationals.") Ouch!
The public outcry was enormous. "What say you, Dippin' Dots?"; "Let's see how Dippin' Dots responds to that!"
How does a brand stand up for itself and its fans, and respond to the public without taking a political position? The answer is so ridiculously simple, perhaps politicians should try it. Be honest. Be authentic. And for Pete's sake, have some fun!
In response to Spicer's blasphemous remarks, Dippin' Dots set out to face its demons head on, with two main objectives in mind:
The events that ensued were simply beautiful…
Nothing pulls a team together like empty, unwarranted trash talk from the U.S. Press Secretary. Utilizing internal Dippin' Dots staff experience as well as consultative advice from Oklahoma City based Gooden Group PR and Dallas based The Marketing Zen Group, the team quickly devised a plan that would save face for the brand and satisfy the public outcry for truth and justice. It was a risky plan that would require tact, wit and Dippin' Dots CEO Scott Fischer's "grab the bully by the horns" tenacity.
Collaborating with the team, Fischer decided to strike back in an open letter to Spicer, published on the company's website on Monday, January 24. Open-armed, somewhat humorous, and categorically brilliant, Fischer's letter to Spicer spoke volumes to the world. Without taking itself (or Spicer for that matter) too seriously, it disarmed Spicer's wrath with empathy ("Running out of your favorite flavor can feel like a national emergency!"), and an assertion of shared values and common ground ("Dippin' Dots are made in Kentucky by hundreds of hard working Americans in the heartland of our great country. As a company, we're doing great. We've enjoyed double-digit growth in sales for the past three years. That means we're creating jobs and opportunities. We hear that's on your agenda too.")
Within minutes of the letter posting online, phones began ringing at Dippin' Dots HQ. USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, NPR – nearly all tier one media (not to mention industry publications like Ad Week, QSR and National Retail Federation) were exhilarated at Dippin' Dots' response and chomping at the bit to get in on the action.
What started as a few (not so innocent) Tweets snowballed into an outright blizzard, blowing across social and mainstream media for 48 hours straight. Dippin' Dots fan support flooded the internet and the public response was priceless. The affectionate words of New York Times technology reporter @MikeIsaac sums up the nation's sentiment in his Tweet: "mother of god the CEO of Dippin' Dots fires back at @seanspicer in this week's most compelling twitter war."
Fischer finally calmed the storm, personally taking one final TV interview on Fox & Friends on Wednesday, January 25, surmising "Sean Spicer having a feud with Dippin' Dots is like Sean Spicer having a feud with the Easter Bunny". Well played, Mr. Fischer. Well played.
The cherry on top of the ice cream war was Fischer's olive branch extended through the open letter — an offer to treat the whole White House to an ice cream social. Spicer eventually responded with a suggestion to treat the military and first responders to one instead.
Dippin' Dots thought that was a great idea, and on July 22nd, 2017, partnered with Six Flags America to salute and celebrate our country's brave heroes. For a full day, all military personnel that visited the park, along with their families, received vouchers for free cups of Dippin' Dots.
Without spending a dime on paid advertising, Dippin' Dots captured America's attention with its timely and authentic response.
For 48 hours after posting the letter, Dippin' Dots and Marketing Zen took interviews with national newspaper, television and radio resulting in press coverage by nearly all tier-one media. An impressive 72 hours after the AV Club article released, Fischer took an exclusive final interview with Fox & Friends.
The letter from Dippin' Dots CEO:
It garnered the attention of celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and George Takei, and was mentioned on the Daily Show. The company even saw a sales increase during the weeks following the coverage, surpassing several hundred million in retail sales. Dippin' Dots' quick and clever response proved that good does prevail when you have creativity, good timing, purity of intent and ice cream loving Americans on your side.
Dippin' Dots was also rewarded through the opportunity to honor those who serve and sacrifice so that all can enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of Dippin' Dots…uh…happiness (same thing). Not surprisingly, this generated even more social support. The military appreciation event achieved a total reach of over 730,000 individuals across social and over 2,800 engagements.
Moral of the story? Put your customers and your values first. Be honest and authentic. And by all means, have fun!
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