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Q&A: Some Sweet Talk with Dairy Queen's Chief Brand Officer

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Michael Keller knows a sweet deal when he sees one. That's why, after watching his competitors grow sales with low-priced items, Dairy Queen International's chief brand officer decided to debut a value menu this week. Called "Sweet Deals," the nine-item combination brings together offerings from DQ's frozen treats and fast food menu list for $5 or less. While many are cutting back on other discretionary purchases, Keller said consumers will always allow themselves the simple treat of some ice cream. This includes its Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie Blizzard, which it is bringing back due to popular demand. The company, which spent close to $90 million on media last year (excluding online, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus), isn't just looking to cheaper eats and big media spends to keep sales for its cold treats hot, it is placing greater emphasis on its "collective brand experience." Here's what Keller had to say:

Brandweek: How’s the new fast-food video game venture coming along? Have you gotten most of America addicted to it yet?
Michael Keller: The game is doing very nicely. There is no doubt that for time management games like this one, once you get into it, you get completely sucked in. A lot of people dream about the idea of owning their own Dairy Queen, and this gets you a little bit closer to your dream. Once you get [to own] two or three or four of them, though, it can get to be a bit on the stressful side, which is why I think people like these games, because they can be a bit challenging.

BW: Who’s playing DQ Tycoon? Is it (as originally anticipated) moms?
MK: From what we understand, the casual gaming segment tends to skew a bit more female. And time management games do tend to center around female head of households…[It’s a game that] could appeal to all. It’s just fun, colorful, friendly and accessible. It seems like a really nice fit with the target audiences of [both] casual and time management gamers.

BW:
How are frozen treat sales faring in a recession?

MK: We're finding the treats business to be a little soft. But just barely. With Blizzard, our flagship brand, we are looking at sales that were equal to 2007. That's key bellwether for us. Blizzard is a $700 million dollar brand. In many people's minds, it's a super premium treat, with a price point of $3 to $4. For a brand that big to be basically flat in a recession when people view frozen treats as a very discretionary purchase is very encouraging.

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