Free Ice Cream!

July 15, 2009


A friend who used to be in the apartment-leasing business tells me that a common trick is to give away free ice cream.

What’s tricky about that? Well, it’s not a cone. Not a little pint of Ben & Jerry’s with a wooden spoon. People come in expecting something small to eat on the spot. Instead, they’re given a gallon of premium ice cream.

Apartment-hunters that see more than a few complexes remember mostly a blur of formica and amenities. The last apartment viewed is the most easily remembered. By giving them ice cream, my friend ensured that her apartment complex was the last one they toured before going straight home. Because leaving a gallon of ice cream in the back seat while you go from complex to complex can get messy.

Yeah, it’s a little bit evil and I’m not sure I advocate being so manipulative. But can you say “giving people ice cream is an evil thing to do” with a straight face? Officer, arrest that woman, she gave me ice cream!

As marketers we focus on driving awareness, consideration or purchase. Are there other behaviors you want your customers to engage in? Sharing your content, talking about your product or even just going straight home?


2 Responses to “Free Ice Cream!”

  1. Bill Fitzpatrick Says:

    Recently I’ve been pondering the art of manipulation as it applies to the sales cycle. Your example is another very clever technique. Historically I’ve always felt effective sales meant having a great product and simply telling the story in a compelling fashion such that people would want to buy from you. As of late though, I’ve begun to realize to really move a sales cycle along you must be able to actively listen to a client and then effectively manipulate their pre-concieved understandings. Hoping they hear your story and adopt your beliefs is not enough. You must find creative techniques of verbal communication that are honest and yet manipulative enough to directly and immediately convince the prospect everything they’ve understood previously was at least a little wrong – and what you have to offer will cure exactly what ails them. I am not talking about deception in any form. No one wants to be manipulated, and most people aren’t comfortable with the idea of manipulating others. While it may be a contradiction of terms, the art of altruistic manipulation in my opinion is a key to effective selling.

  2. rsomers Says:

    That’s a wonderfully thoughtful comment, Bill. I think “The Art of Altruistic Manipulation” is a great book title and I hope you write it! A possible co-author is my friend O’Shea at

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