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Northern Bloc: The inside scoop on promotional merch

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Since their inception in 2014, Northern Bloc have been making waves with their unique take on ice cream. Their brand focuses on using fresh and natural ingredients, ditching the additives and preservatives that have become customary for the industry. Their flavours have caught on nationwide and can be found in major retailers such as Co-op and Waitrose, everywhere from Lerwick in the Shetland Islands, down to Hayle in West Cornwall.

We nipped across the canal to their HQ for a chat with Liena Wright to get the inside scoop on the role branding and merchandise has played in their success.

Northern Bloc, ice cream, tote bag, marketing, merchandise, Awesome Merchandise

Firstly, can you give us a bit of background about Northern Bloc?

Northern Bloc had really humble beginnings I suppose. It was a team of us who loved ice cream and essentially made ice cream to sell to local restaurants and street food events initially. We have a 1970s vintage ice cream which we used to go to events and sell ice cream out of. More and more restaurants started taking us on and it became a lot more serious. From then we’ve quickly grown and now we’re stocked in independent outlets and supermarkets nationwide.

Despite the rapid growth we still make it in the same way.  It’s still artisan ice cream,  hand made and the processes are exactly the same, we just make a lot more of it and have a wider reach.

We also have a lot of distributors on board now and we sell our ice creams to food service providers, which is exciting. You’ll probably be eating Northern Bloc in places where you won’t know you’re eating Northern Bloc, which is exciting.

How important is branding for you as a company?

It’s hugely important. It’s what sets us apart from other ice cream brands. Traditionally when people think ice cream, it’s either brands such as Mr Whippy or traditional dairy ice cream made on farms.  We may have an Italian chef whose family has been making ice cream for over 120 years but we have a new product. We use a really modern way of making ice-cream; it’s a really unique recipe that he’s developed over the years, allowing us to make ice cream in a really natural way, with only natural ingredients, no artificial stabilisers and emulsifiers.

“The branding isn’t something which is secondary for us. The ice cream tastes good so the brand should look good too. The colour scheme is black and white, quite a stark contrast to a lot of the Ben and Jerry’s type brands, which are kooky and colourful. It’s really going down that sort of modern, urban route. It’s a different look for ice cream that hasn’t been done before.”

Do you do all your branding and design in-house?

Originally we used to do everything in-house, but we can’t do everything anymore. We work closely with an agency who are based in the same mill as us. It’s really handy them just being upstairs, they’re just part of our team now. The scoop symbol became a brand mark when they started helping us and we did the latest packaging update.

Northern Bloc, ice cream, marketing, branding, merchandise, Awesome Merchandise

Can you tell us a little bit about the merch you use on a regular basis to promote your brand and why you use them

Tote Bags

Essentially, people love a freebie. Tote bags work really well because people like getting free stuff full stop, but it’s also something that can be reused and it’s practical.

“If somebody goes to the shop and uses your bag, regardless of whether they’re buying your product or not, your brand is still visible. It’s a form of advertising and it works really well.They’ve gone down brilliantly for us – people have asked for them and people have even asked to buy them! I think tote bags work across generations.”

I know my Mother-in-law loves a tote bag because she’s saving the world by not using a plastic bag, whereas my friends like it because of the slogan and Instagrammers like it because it’s cool to Instagram.

 

Northern Bloc, ice cream, Leeds, Merchandise, branding, Awesome Merchandise

Badges & Stickers

We send badges and stickers out to people that have been really helpful or sent us emails. It really helps us connect with those brand ambassadors. We’d love to send out free ice cream but it’s not practical. We like to send out merch as a little thank you to people.

If we’re doing a sampling event at a little farm shop, kids love the badges – everyone loves a badge, so it works really well.

Apparel

The guys use the hoodies in production – (working in and out of freezer conditions these come in handy!) and it’s become staff uniform. Again, we use aprons in production and at trade shows and similar events where we need to be  branded.

Do you plan to expand your merch range or sell it online?

People have asked time and time again if people can buy things.  We got some snapbacks done and people said ‘I need one of those’. I think never say never; there is obviously a market for it and I think our brand works well!

Northern Bloc, ice cream, Leeds, Awesome Merchandise, Merchandise, Marketing, Branding

Northern Bloc’s innovative take on branding is as refreshing as their delicious tubs, helping them to take the nation by storm. It’s been great to help play a small part in their branding story, producing the merch we regularly see springing up on our Instagram feeds.

Inspired to use merch more effectively? Check out our “ideas for’ pages for loads of merch inspiration whether you’re a brewery, band or big name brand.

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