How to Sell Ice Cream in Winter (Even in Vermont)

branding communication influence real estate real estate agent storytelling Apr 29, 2024

“How do I stand out in my market- when there are so many other agents just like me?”

I was at lunch with a good friend of mine who is a Real Estate agent. I hear this concern a lot- and it makes sense because it seems social media, FB ads, and print media are full of people all saying the same thing: “Pick me. I’m qualified. I’m experienced.”

I could see the look of frustration on his face. He was a great agent, and served his clients well… but how could he stand out?

That’s when I posed my question: “How have you focused on building your personal brand?”

Confused, he asked, “What do you mean?”

I asked if he was open to a story that would bring some insights, and he agreed.

“A lot of people don’t know this, but Ben Cohen- as in THE Ben in ‘Ben & Jerry’s’ ice cream… has extreme anosmia, which means he can’t taste or smell. In 1980 if you, or I, (or anyone else for that matter) had heard that two guys in Burlington, Vermont wanted to start an ice cream company from scratch… and one of them couldn’t even taste or smell… we would have said they were crazy. But that actually turned out to be the secret for their success.”

“How so?” My friend asked.

“Their secret was branding.” I responded. “At the time, Häagen-Dazs and Breyers dominated most super markets with their subtle and refined flavors. But Ben & Jerry’s flipped everything on its head.

“From the outset, in order to compensate for his lack of taste, Ben suggested that they add outrageously-sized chunks of cookie dough, brownies, or peanut butter to create something that no other premium brand had tried: texture. Ben & Jerry blasted consumers with flavor and a completely different ice cream experience.

“Second, they created a story that people loved. First was the rock-and-roll inspired “Cherry Garcia” flavor. Then their cross country “Cow-Mobile” serving up free ice cream wherever they went. And when Häagen-Dazs and their parent company Pillsbury refused to let their distributors sell the Ben & Jerry’s brand in Boston, Ben and Jerry saw this as yet another marketing opportunity and went public with the now famous, “What’s the Doughboy Afraid Of?” campaign.

“Häagen-Dazs melted under the pressure, and Ben & Jerry’s expanded throughout the East Coast.”

“So what does this have to do with my brand and standing out?” My friend pressed.

“Think about it: Ben & Jerry’s created a brand which people loved to tell, and experience. And today, if you go to the frozen section in your local grocery store, compare the messages and brand of Häagen-Dazs, Breyers, and Ben & Jerry’s. Which is more engaging and fun? More importantly, depending on which brand you buy, what does it say about YOU?”

After some consideration, he said, “I’ve never thought about ice cream in this way but I guess Ben and Jerry’s makes me feel more fun and spontaneous.”

“Exactly. They’ve created a story that influences YOU to choose THEM. And the same thing goes for you and your business. Your personal brand (not flyers, not FB ads, not Social Media posts) is the GREATEST tool you have to differentiate yourself and influence others to choose you.”

“In what way?” He asked.

“How likely is someone going to call you because of a post on Instagram?”

“Not much.”

“Then let’s compare: how likely is someone going to call you because their friend (your former client) RAVED and told a compelling story about you?”

“A lot more.” The clarity brightened his eyes.

“Then imagine,” I offered, “if your previous clients went to lunch with some friends, and they were asked, ‘So how was your realtor?’ What stories would they tell? What do you want them to say? More importantly, how are YOU helping them tell that story?”

My friend sat, lost in his thoughts, reflecting on this. After some time, he replied, “I’ve been so focused on giving the best service possible… I’ve realized that isn’t enough to stand out. I need to really brainstorm what my ‘brand’ is and how I can help people tell it for me.”

Our discussion continued into what strategies he could easily apply, and he has since gained more confidence (and results) as he’s adjusted his efforts. But to anyone struggling to stand out, these two simple questions provide a unique gut-check:

1. What is the story people tell about you and your service when you aren’t in the room?

2. How are you helping them tell your story for you?

Your brand is only as strong as someone’s ability to share it with another. What do you want them to say?

Remember: In a world where everyone has comparable skills and abilities, he or she that tells the best story… wins.

Just ask Ben & Jerry.

CHRISTIAN HANSEN has gone behind the scenes in some of the biggest organizations in the world to find out the reasons why some people get chosen and why others don’t. As the #1 bestselling and LinkedIn Top Ten ranked author of “The Influence Mindset: The Art & Science of Getting People to Choose You” Christian helps teams and organizations who want increase their earning potential by standing out from the crowd and influencing people to choose them. With degrees from Brigham Young University and The London School of Economics, he’s helped thousands of individuals position and sell themselves. A fan of international communication, history, and choral music, he currently lives in Utah with his wife. Reach him at:

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