A custom ice cream flavor, branded truck, giveaways and major pop radio push: inside one of the most ambitious single releases of 2020.
Along with tours, festivals, recording sessions and fan meet-and-greets, major label marketing campaigns have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, with new singles and albums receiving stunted promotion due to safety concerns. Yet Blackpink, Selena Gomez and their shared U.S. label home, Interscope Records, wanted the rollout for one of the major pop releases of the year to bring two sprawling fan bases together — responsibly, of course, and hinging upon a shared love of sweets.
“Ice Cream,” the collaboration between the K-pop girl group and pop superstar released through YG Entertainment/Interscope on Friday (Aug. 28), will be supported by a multi-prong marketing rollout that includes a custom ice cream flavor, social giveaways, “parlor in a box” deliveries and a truck driving sweet treats around Los Angeles. The launch is designed to turn “Ice Cream” into an event — one befitting Gomez, who’s coming off a No. 1 album, and Blackpink, who are releasing their most high-profile single to date ahead of their first full-length in October.
“We knew that we had a massive opportunity to build around these two global superstars, coming together for this really big, girl-power, end-of-summer pop anthem,” says Hannah Gold, vp marketing at Interscope Records. “We knew that we needed a campaign that felt as big as Blackpink and Selena.”
Naturally, the “Ice Cream” campaign starts with ice cream: Gomez has announced an ownership stake in gourmet brand Serendipity, which hails from the famous New York City restaurant Seprendipity3, and created a custom flavor, Cookies & Cream Remix, which also was released as a take-home line to U.S. grocery stores on Friday. Gomez, whose HBO Max cooking show Selena + Chef premiered earlier this month, personally helped concoct the flavor, a pink vanilla ice cream elevated by a fudge swirl and a smattering of broken cookie pieces.
“For Interscope, everything starts with the music and an artist’s creative vision,” says Steve Berman, vice chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M, in a statement. “This amazing pairing between Blackpink and Selena was one that was highly anticipated by fans around the world. Selena’s managers [Aleen Keshishian and Zack Morgenroth of Lighthouse Management & Media] wanted to create an opportunity where Selena could highlight and support this great song collaboration which naturally evolved into an ownership opportunity with a prestige brand.”
A pint of Cookies & Cream Remix will be featured in every “ice cream parlor in a box” package — which also includes rainbow sprinkles, assorted candy and a Serendipity-branded ice cream scooper — being sent to friends and influencers this weekend. “Ice Cream”-themed merch was released earlier this week, and a limited run of tote bags will also be delivered on Friday as part of an Amazon Music social giveaway.
But the big attraction of release weekend is a branded ice cream truck — the same one prominently featured in the “Ice Cream” music video — that will be rolling around L.A. from Friday to Sunday, dropping off pints to celebs and hitting high-traffic areas in the city. Instead of the familiar ice cream truck jingle, the truck will be blasting a MIDI version of “Ice Cream,” specially made for the opening-weekend stunt.
“We wanted to be able to do even more,” says Gold when asked about game-planning the release-week activation during a pandemic. “We wanted to be able to have an ice cream truck park at the beach and hand out pints of ice cream. We just immediately knew that that didn’t feel right given COVID. … We’re not gonna have them sitting in one location. We want people to interact with the truck, but we have to be safe with what’s going on.”
Part of the reason Interscope was able to remain ambitious with its marketing strategy: “Ice Cream” was recorded and delivered prior to the pandemic shutting down the U.S. in March. “We’ve been planning this song for quite some time — pre-quarantine, I remember being at the office and hearing the record,” says Gold.
The extra lead-up time gave Interscope an opportunity to not only coordinate the Serendipity partnership and ice cream truck, but lock in song-specific merchandise early. That merch was then incorporated into the music video, in which Gomez and Blackpink sport “Ice Cream” sunglasses, socks and other items now for sale.
Although Gomez is already a consistent presence at top 40 — her No. 1 album, Rare, included her first Hot 100 chart-topper, “Lose You To Love Me” — Interscope is hoping that “Ice Cream” gives Blackpink a more pronounced presence at U.S. pop radio ahead of the quartet’s debut, The Album, out Oct. 2. The K-pop group’s previous single, “How You Like That,” reached No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, the same peak as its recent Lady Gaga collaboration, “Sour Candy.” With Gomez in tow, Blackpink could climb even higher with “Ice Cream,” especially if the marketing blitz resonates the way that their shared label is hoping.
“This is a real opportunity to [make them] a household name,” says Gold. ”It’s their big pop moment. And that’s how we looked at it.”