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A Farewell to Arms (er, hands): Navigating a Sea of Brand Change

Don’t get me wrong, I like winter. But waking up to several inches of fresh snow (on top of several existing inches of not-so-fresh snow), I can’t help but let my mind fast forward to June, July and August. Warm summer evenings, good friends, welcoming verandas, a cold pint. (But maybe not the kind you’d expect.)

It’s no secret that I’m a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams fan. While I once blamed my Ohio upbringing, it seems the whole world has caught on to Ohio’s best-kept “sweet-cret.” And that’s a good thing. There’s something pretty awesome  about watching people across the country fall in love with the brand your hometown has been rallying around for years.

Last week Jeni’s made a big announcement. They’re doing away with their signature trademark, handwritten labels. Turns out they spend more than 15,000 hours a year adding that personal touch to every pint that leaves the building.

From a consumer touchpoint standpoint, I have to admit that I will miss the handwritten labels just a bit. It has become a summer tradition to pause in front of the freezer at our favorite local market to savor the Sharpie art of so many different hands. There is something (no pun intended) so cool about knowing each pint has passed through the  hands of a real human. (Though now I’m starting to suspect those hands may have been suffering from a case of chronic writer’s cramp.)

Once I put my selfish, Sharpie-loving feelings aside, I was able to see things from a business perspective,  and I began to really appreciate how Jeni’s is handling this transition. Change is never easy. Especially for a brand that is beloved and deeply ingrained in their consumer’s nostalgia experience. But Jeni’s did things right in a few ways:

1. They were open, honest and forthcoming – before the change rolled out. In doing so, they gave their customers a heads up, a little time to mourn and a taste of what’s next.

2. They looked to the past to inspire the future. Realizing that the old, handwritten labels held a special place in their customers’ hearts, Jeni’s new labels will be printed in-house using a variety of samples from their professional handwriting crew. Customers get that personal touch they love; employees get to focus their time and talent elsewhere. Which brings me to…

3. They were transparent about their motivation. While I’m sure financial factors played a part in the decision, Jeni’s announcement focused on a much more important factor: the human factor. “We’re certain that our kitchen team members will be happier when they arrive at work knowing that they will be fully engaged in the making of the actual ice cream every day rather than writing the names of flavors on pint containers.” I love this because it’s a reminder that Jeni’s isn’t just focused on the goodness that goes inside their pints, they’re committed to fostering goodness within the walls of their company and culture. It tells me they’re listening to their employees, looking for ways to best utilize the talent they hire an not afraid to adjust to make that happen. Happy brands start with happy people. It’s as simple as that.

And that’s a brand I want to do business with. Or in this case, keep on doing business with.

 

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