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In less than 15 years, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams has opened 23 brick-and-mortar shops, got its ice cream into more than 150 grocery stories, and amassed more than 500,000 online fans.

Along the way, Jeni’s has maintained complete control of its brand and image.

All art direction, photography, and copywriting for its website, emails, and other marketing materials are handled exclusively in-house.

This DIY ethos is crucial to the Jeni’s brand. Customers don’t just love the Jeni’s product — they respect and admire what Jeni stands for. So when they receive an email from Jeni’s, they aren’t likely to regard it as unsolicited or unwelcome.

Operating at a higher level

According to Jeni’s Experience Leader Ryan Morgan, winning customers’ hearts and minds has little do with marketing. It’s more about how you conduct yourself as a business. “I’m a firm believer that the best marketing is actually great operations,” he says. “The biggest driver of new business and customer loyalty is being transparent about what you do, how you do it, and why.”

This radically transparent approach to business translates into refreshingly honest storytelling, both on Jeni’s website and in its emails to fans. “We are in the fortunate situation of having a product that is remarkable,” Morgan says. “We don’t have to make up clever marketing stories. We just have to tell good, true stories about what we do.”

“We’ve been doing content marketing before it was a thing,” Morgan continues. “We just called it ‘storytelling.’”

Hitting the ignition switch

Each year, Jeni’s releases 4 new flavor collections, which they promote with a multi-part email campaign. “We have the equivalent of an ignition sequence with each release,” Morgan says. First, his team builds a landing page to promote the collection. Then, they create a series of targeted emails to generate interest and drive traffic.

“Every flavor gets its own individual email,” he says. “And each email includes layers promoting other things, such as our Valentine’s gift guide, or non-commercial editorial content.”

Time and again, those emails drive significantly more sales for Jeni’s than any other digital media. “We have forty-some digital channels,” Morgan says. ”But the beating heart of our digital marketing, along with our website, is email.”

When you think about it it’s not all that surprising. “It’s really easy to just hit ‘Like’ on a Facebook page,” Morgan says. “But when you subscribe to an email list, you are showing a very high-level interest. It only makes sense to invest in capitalizing on that.”

Jeni’s strong investment in email marketing is another example of how the company bucks convention. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, many mainstream marketers mostly ignore email marketing. We’ll explain the problem with that in our next issueof this series.