Sweet Potato with Torched Marshmallow, Whiskey and Pecans, Loveless Biscuits & Peach Jam. These are just a few of the flavors sold by Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. And believe me, there are plenty more worth listing (I’m looking at you, Yazoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts) but there wouldn’t be enough room on the page. Jeni’s recently opened up a store here in Atlanta, GA, on the Westside, and I was lucky enough to score an invite to shoot their private tasting. I was having so much fun, I ended up staying through the public grand launch (who leaves when there’s free ice cream?) and besides filling myself up on Backyard Mint, I learned a few things about producing from the splendid folks at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Check out the final video I made below.
Now I know what you’re thinking. What the hell do ice cream and video production have in common? More than you’d think actually. No matter what you’re producing, sharing it with others is an important part. And Jeni’s understands that how you share can be just as important as what you share. So as a producer I’ve learned to look at everything I’ve made not just as a product, but as an experience. Here’s what I’ve learned from Jeni’s on how to shape your product and experience to create something truly special.
Give It Away For Free…Sorta
At their launch, Jeni’s was giving away whole cups of ice cream completely free. Not just tasting portions. Whole cups! There was a huge line for free ice cream, and I bet most of those people are going to be return customers. And even if they’re not, Jeni’s knows there are plenty of other people willing to pay for their gourmet ice cream. They definitely weren’t afraid to give out as much ice cream as people wanted that night. If you have something good on your hands, don’t be afraid to give it away for free. Maybe not all of it, all of the time, but if you have something special, people are going to pay for it. So why not give it away for free every now and then. If they like it, they’ll pay for more. Put the teaser for your TV pilot online for free. Host discussions or webinars online with free attendance. At ECG, we are constantly putting out tutorials and behind the scenes videos for free. It’ll help you build a following. And once you have that following, they’ll gladly pay to help you do what you do. At that point, it’s more than a transaction. They become microinvestors, interested in helping you make more of what you make.
Have A Party
For their opening, Jeni’s got the word out, and tons of people showed up to see the new high end ice cream shop in town. It became more than the first day of business. It was a party. Jeni’s held a private event, where only select individuals from around town were invited. Receiving the invite made you part of the cool club, and Jeni’s identified themselves as an authority on what’s cool. (And yes, I know we’re talking about ice cream, no pun intended.) If you’re having a premiere, why not make a special event out of it. Have a cocktail hour before the showing. Jeni’s had a cheese plate, some light snacks and drinks at their event, marking it as more than just another opening day. If you’ve worked hard to make something, and want to share it with the world, go ahead and make a party out of it. You deserve it, and your (potential) customers will feel special to be a part of it. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the picture below. That was the line just to get inside!
Don’t Fear New Markets
This is Jeni’s first store in Atlanta. They have plenty back home in Ohio and a few elsewhere (like Nashville) but Atlanta is the biggest market they’ve entered thus far. The risk is higher, but so is the reward. If you play it safe, and stay in your small pond, you’ll never grow. Jeni’s understands this, and when they saw a potential market in Atlanta, they went for it. And based on what I saw at the opening, I’d say it’s going to pan out well for them. We can’t be afraid to enter new territory. Distribution is a great example of this. The traditional ways of distributing content are fast becoming obsolete. And while there’s a few alternative methods with some authority (Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Instant Video) a lot of producers are turning towards self-distribution online. The internet can feel like the wild west sometimes, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to explore it.
Details, Details, Details aka Spoons
Ok, I’ve been waiting to share this, because this was my favorite part of the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams opening night. The spoons. They were excellent. They were recycled plastic so they could be disposed of with your cup, but these weren’t the cheap flimsy spoons you’ve gotten used to. They’re thick, so they won’t bend as you scoop your thick Brambleberry Crisp. They also have a nice texture to them, so they don’t get slimy as you spoon your Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet. I’ve never complained about spoons anywhere else, but after experiencing these spoons, I realize how much I’ve been hung out to dry in the past. Why should I have to deal with flimsy spoons? Keep in mind, the spoons in no way affects the flavor of the ice cream, but it affects my experience. It is a small detail that I hadn’t thought about, until Jeni’s did for me. Check out the flavors in the picture above. These tags could just say Biscuits & Peach and Cheesecake and leave it at that. Jeni’s aptly names each flavor, as well as describes where the special ingredients are coming from. Now that’s attention to detail! Believe it or not, these small things make a difference. When it came to making the video you see above, I spent a great deal of time on the color grade and compositing the light bleeds to create a certain aesthetic. I actually had fellow ECG collaborator Brandon Peterson go over the grade with me, and we ended up completely changing the grade on almost every shot from what I had originally colored. These details do make a difference. Fair warning though, don’t get too caught up in them. You can tinker forever, but eventually, you have to be finished. In other words, it’s ok to sweat the small stuff, but not too much that it stops you from sharing.
The one thing that was most clear to me at Jeni’s wasn’t how delicious all the flavors were (and trust me, they were) or how amazing the spoons were (trust me again, they were) but how much everyone cared. Talking to the employees there was like talking to someone who didn’t know there was anything on the planet to eat other than ice cream. They were the most enthusiastic bunch of scoopers I’ve ever met. And man, they knew their creams! I’m talking Food Network level knowledge of these ice cream flavors. They could tell me where the inspiration for the flavor came from, where the ingredients came from, which flavors it pairs with and why. And they did it all with the biggest smiles on their faces. I felt like they had one mission in life: to give me the best personalized ice cream experience possible. Guess what? They did. Caring can’t be taught. Care about your work, and it will make a difference. Do something you care about, and people will take notice. Of everything I learned, this was the most valuable.
I’ve already told all my friends about Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, and keep coming up with excuses to go. “Your birthday is next week. We should go to Jeni’s.” “You got promoted? Let’s celebrate with ice cream!” “Oh, the sink is leaking? Let’s go to Jeni’s and maybe it’ll have fixed itself by the time we get back.” Produce something special, and people will flock to it. I don’t know if there’s an exact formula for success, but these things I learned from a humble Ohio ice cream shop sure gave me a clue as to what it might be.
At ECG Productions, we love collaborating with new businesses and companies. Whether you’ve got a concept in mind or you need us to help you develop one from scratch, we’d love to put our years of experience and skill with the moving image to work for you. Reach out to a member of our team today and get the conversation started!