From internet sensation to trusted brand: Chinese ice-cream firm reveals secrets of success

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The tile-shaped ice cream produced by Chicecream is a hit amongst Chinese consumers.
The tile-shaped ice cream produced by Chicecream is a hit amongst Chinese consumers.

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Brand owners will need to fulfill four steps for their products to evolve from an internet viral to a well-trusted consumer brand, according to Chinese ice-cream maker Chicecream.

Chicecream shot to instant fame last year, after its tile-shaped ice-cream became an internet sensation.

During last year’s Double 11 shopping event, its daily sales exceeded RMB$4.6m (US$682k), emerging as the best-selling brand in the ice-cream category. Besides e-commerce platforms, Chicecream's products are also available for sale on the company's retail outlet. 

Despite amassing a crowd of new found fans, CEO Frank Lin is not resting on his laurels.

He opined that it was paramount to break through the stage of being an internet viral, to a trusted and accomplished brand, a topic that he would speak​ on during Food & Beverage Innovation Forum (FBIF) 2019.

 “In this time and stage, becoming an internet viral is a pre-requisite to establishing your brand. However, becoming an internet viral is only a way to attract consumers’ attention. You cannot treat it as the final goal. It is very important to take note of this,”​ he told FoodNavigator-Asia​ in an interview.

“Becoming an internet viral (aka Wang Hong in Chinese) only means that you have make yourself heard.”

He cautioned that after becoming an internet viral, brands either “die out”​ or prevail from the market competition. 

“We saw too many internet viral die off. The alternative, is to think of ways to sustain consumers’ attention, such that they choose you not because you are a temporal hype, but rationally chose to buy your product.”

Using consumer theories, he explained that a rational decision refers to choosing the option which was well-trusted by the consumers.

“There is an amount of capital involved when consumers are making choices. When they choose the brand that they are most familiar with, they are spending the least amount of capital, and they do not even need to worry about it. It means making a choice that is the safest, a choice that will not go wrong.”

The Food & Beverage Innovation Forum 2019 will be held in the Hangzhou International Expo Center from April 23 to 25.

The four steps

Four steps are needed for a brand to evolve from an internet viral to an established and trusted brand, Lin said.

First, he said that brands would first need to analyse the plus points of their products. He said that brands could be attractive due to a myriad of factors, such as high product quality, economic prices, and a relatable brand story.

“You need to find the factors that attract consumers most, then work on strengthening and amplifying the selling points.”

As with plus points, brands will also need to listen to feedback and work on the areas of improvement.

 “To become an establish brand, consumers will need to stay in love with the brand. While you need to find out the selling points of your products, it is even more important to find out the aspects that consumers are not pleased with. You need to work with these two areas,” ​he said.

Third, he said it was important to foster consumer trust.

For example, brands owners will need to maintain or achieve a higher standard if they are preferred for their quality.

“You need to consolidate consumers’ trust. This is because consumers initially tried your products only out of curiosity.

“You need to provide a strong basis for consumer trust. If consumers are attracted by your product quality, you should avoid situations where inferior products are produced. You need to practice self-discipline,”​ he said.

The ability to craft a new set of narratives to remain relevant to the consumers was also key.

 “You need to have the ability to craft a new set of narrative. Every time when you market your products, it is an opportunity to tell your consumers that: ‘Look, I have donned a new set of clothing.’”

A delicate balance

Brand owners should respect consumers’ demands, but this does not mean that they should satisfy all sorts of demands.

Lin said that brand owners need to strike the delicate balance of “satisfying consumer demands”​ and “refraining from overindulging the consumers.”

“You should not let the consumers bear with your shortcomings for long…If you want to satisfy all the demands of all consumers, you will become a very mediocre brand. Therefore, you need to analyse which demands are important,”​ he said.

More flavours and discounts

Noting that consumers are hoping for more product options and lower prices, Lin said that the firm already has plans to materialise new initiatives.

One way to achieve lower product price, is to scale up production and to introduce more product promotions.

Besides its existing factory in Yangzhou, Jiangsu, the firm has built its second production line in Nanjing, where operation is expected to start in March.

Selling at RMB$66 (US$9.70) per bar, Lin said that consumers have feedback that the retail price was too high. 

“As we have lowered the production cost and maintained product quality, we can provide more discounts for the consumers. 

“Last year, we conducted promotional activities twice. Now that we have a lower production cost (due to a higher production), can we consider holding promotional activities for five or even 10 times?”

As for increasing the number of SKUs, he revealed that the firm aimed to introduce “at least”​ six new products which would be released in spring. This is an improvement from last year, when the firm only launched two new products.

At present, only few Chinese brands have achieved international success, however, Lin remained hopeful of seeing a future with more Chinese brands competing in the global arena.

“Now is the opportune time to establish a brand…If everyone presses on for 10 to 20 more years, someday in the future, we will see more Chinese brands (in the global market).”

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