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Cold Stone MBA: Know Thyself; Love Thyself

June 12, 2012

I admit it.  I have become an ice cream snob.

The fact that Cold Stone is a creamery and ice cream store is really big.  It’s why the ice cream is so darned good – we make it every day.  Freshly made ice cream is one of the brand’s foundational key messages.  Our banana ice cream is flavored with 9 fresh bananas; and our strawberry banana mango sorbet has real strawberries, bananas and mango juice.  The list goes on…

The other piece that creates the essence of the Cold Stone brand is the experience.  Not only getting your freshly made ice cream mixed on the stone with exactly the mixins you want added, but with a personalized customer experience that includes a song in your honor if you tip.  There is an energy in the store on a busy summer night that creates a smile and makes waiting a form of entertainment.

Cold Stone can be best in the world at this combination.  So what to do with it?

I have watched some marketing decisions at the national and local level  that are mind boggling.  Thousands of dollars spent marketing our pre-packed cups at Pistons games (no freshly made ice cream or stone experience here….).  A strategic initiative to co-locate Cold Stones with Tim Hortons.  A great way to take the cyclical nature of the ice cream business out of the northern locations, but I can’t think of a place that is less exciting than Tim Hortons.  Waiting for anything in a Tim Hortons could be a form of purgatory.

Cold Stone is not alone in this struggle to know and love their brand.  The phrase that sends fear into my heart is “We can do that.”   Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

The key is to know your passion, what makes you eagerly get out of bed in the morning to start the day, what you can be best in the world at.  Embrace that passion.  Pursue that passion.  Remain loyal to that passion.  Grow by finding new markets that align with your passion.

Selling out to pursue an opportunity that doesn’t align with your passion sucks energy, weakens your brand, and distracts you.

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