-- Some brands become instant favorites, introduced to you in childhood or discovered by chance. More likely, though, there is a larger public relations force at work behind the scenes, like using strategic advertisements and clever marketing strategies to pitch their product.
Which is how premium ice cream brand Magnum has become a food favorite in the fashion world, a direct result of the company’s mission to position their product as a luxury good by partnering with celebrities like Rachel Bilson, fashion-world elite like Karl Lagerfeld and, most recently, designer Christian Siriano and chef Andrew Carmellini.
“Fashion and Magnum share a real commitment to craftsmanship,” Unilever marketing director Nick Soukas said. “So for the launch, we went for the beacon of fashion and pop culture, which is Karl Lagerfeld. He embodies the pleasure-seeking lifestyle of the target consumer for Magnum.”
Magnum, owned by product giant Unilever, first established itself as a popular premium ice cream in Europe 25 years ago before launching here in 2011 with a very strong vision for who the brand wanted to target – women only.
“We were one of the first ice cream brands to go after a very specific target and make the brand known as a real indulgence for her. The woman who buys Magnum is someone who is seeking pleasure in her lifestyle. She isn’t afraid of indulgence. She embodies a work hard, play hard lifestyle,” Soukas said. “She is just a voracious consumer of all things fashion and media related. Pop culture as well, so a lot of the big names come in because they are people who she really associates with. She likes to know about them.”
“Them” being so-called fashion “influencers” like Kyle Anderson, the accessories director at Marie Claire, who has nearly 149,000 followers on Instagram – many of them other influencers – with whom to share his love for Magnum. Anderson made two Instagram posts in May featuring Magnum, conveniently around the brand’s 25th anniversary.
You Did Not Eat That is an Instagram account dedicated to poking fun at the reality of the fashion and public relations world –- one in which popular editors, bloggers and personalities are gifted products in the hopes they’ll share them with their followers, while pretending it’s something they indulge in in their normal lives.
The woman who founded the account, who has worked in the fashion and media world for 10 years and chose to remain anonymous, noticed a definitive uptick to the number of Magnum posts after Anderson shared his posts, which featured a custom Dolce & Gabbana box for a custom Magnum bar.
“I thought, ‘Something’s going on here.’ There’s clearly a fashion initiative happening if they’re doing a collaboration with a huge name like Dolce [& Gabbana] and it was given to Kyle. He didn’t just happen to see it at bodega,” You Did Not Eat That said. “We know how this works. These things don’t happen naturally or organically. I’m sure there’s been a personality who has eaten one and posted it and tagged it. But I’m also sure that six posts in three days on @chiaraferragni [another influencer’s account] didn’t just happen. Magnum must have done some sort of gifting.”
Soukas acknowledged that Magnum seeks out these influencers, because that’s who the women they’re targeting want to emulate.
“Magnum now fits into her world [once influencers post them], which is a really special thing that we’re proud of. From having done all the things that you talk about [like targeting influencers] and for a young brand like Magnum, we took a risk,” Soukas said. “We put an ice cream brand into the world of fashion, and unless it can stand on its credentials of being really high-quality, and a great, pleasurable experience, there is a risk that it wouldn’t be accepted into that world, but it was kind of welcomed with open arms.”
Magnum’s initiative certainly did pay off, which designer Christina Siriano, Magnum’s latest partner has noticed.
“If it looks great and is good and if your favorite people also enjoy it, then it makes you want to,” Siriano said. “It’s fun and cool, and I love seeing all the girls in my office on juice cleanses at the end of the day have a Magnum bar, which is hilarious, and I love it.”
It also happens to be what You Did Not Eat That calls the perfect Instagram prop. “It’s little, it’s self-contained, you can make a little sexy pout face and look glamorous and gorgeous.”
In the brand’s latest initiative, they teamed up with Christian Siriano and celebrated chef Andrew Carmellini to create what they’re billing as “America’s Most Fashionable Dessert.” Carmellini said he was stumped at first after being asked to pull inspiration from Siriano’s latest clothing line, which took tropical cues from a trip to Isla de Mujeres off Mexico.
“This is the first time I ever thought about fashion and food together and how those trends work with food,” Carmellini said. “It has to be visual because there are no flavor cues there. It was more about taking a look at some of the colors and thinking about the flavor of the bar and how to bridge the gap between the two.”
Carmellini noted that starting with a high-quality product like Magnum helped in the process of creating his dessert, a pretty concoction that Magnum describes as “Magnum signature dark and milk chocolate drizzled in a lattice effect to mimic trending textures such as modern embroidered lace and tribal textiles with tropical fruits such as coconut, lime, bruleed champagne mango and pickled pineapple artfully displayed to highlight this season’s citrus color blocking trend.” (You can get the recipe for the dessert here.)
“You’d be less successful if you were trying to pair food and fashion with fish sticks,” Carmellini joked. “So it was very easy because there was a whimsical quality to the bar to start.”
Soukas said Magnum plans to continue the brand’s connection to fashion. Though he declined to share specific numbers, he acknowledged that Magnum is one of the leading brands advertising in the US ice cream market, measured by money spent.
“It’s a brilliant campaign on Magnum’s part,” You Did Not Eat That said. “I don’t criticize that. That’s Unilever’s premium product, and it’s meant to be glamorous and luxurious, and they’ve done something really interesting.”