The Tasti D-Lite Way: Social Media Marketing Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave


There is a right way and a wrong way to use social media. Then there is THE TASTI D-LITE WAY.

The Tasti D-Lite Way is an example of how to turn the advent of social media into understandable, actionable strategies. Digest its rich content and you will find loyal customers lining up!”
—Jon Luther, Chairman of Dunkin’ Brands (Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins) and Chairman of Arby’s Inc.

“If you want to build a useable social media strategy in your...

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The Tasti D-Lite Way: Social Media Marketing Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave

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There is a right way and a wrong way to use social media. Then there is THE TASTI D-LITE WAY.

The Tasti D-Lite Way is an example of how to turn the advent of social media into understandable, actionable strategies. Digest its rich content and you will find loyal customers lining up!”
—Jon Luther, Chairman of Dunkin’ Brands (Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins) and Chairman of Arby’s Inc.

“If you want to build a useable social media strategy in your company, this book is for you. It starts with a great brand, a savvy businessman who has built businesses before, and an information technology guru who is able to translate customer experiences into a strategy in a step-by-step approach. Read and enjoy the stories.”
—Ken Walker, Chairman and CEO, Driven Brands, Inc. (Meineke, Maaco)

“If you’re facing stiff competition and truly want to understand the future of customer engagement innovation, then this book is for you.”
—Steve Caldeira, President & CEO, International Franchise Association

“Planet Tasti gets it: They know they aren’t in the business of merely selling healthier frozen treats and smoothies–they’re in the business of serving people. With the advent of social media, connecting with people will be table-stakes going forward. If you don’t know what that means, read this book.”
—Jenny Dervin, VP Corporate Communications, JetBlue Airways Corp.

“Finally, a great social media marketing book from a brand’s perspective. Jim and BJ have written an excellent, must-read story of triumph of a smaller business thanks to social media. Two likeable thumbs up!”
—Dave Kerpen, New York Times bestselling author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business

“The Tasti D-Lite story offers valuable lessons for any business in the industry—whether it’s selling frozen desserts or computers. . . . It’s about creating enhanced experiences in an increasingly competitive economy. The authors get it, and so will you.”
—Carmine Gallo, author of The Apple Experience and The Power of foursquare

About the Book:

One of the sweetest success stories of our time, the meteoric rise of Tasti D-Lite is almost legendary among business leaders and marketing directors. The company’s uncanny grasp on the latest social media has helped it build a franchise as unique and irresistible as its lower-calorie desserts, with millions of devoted Tasti D-Lite customers from around the world. Now, in The Tasti D-Lite Way, industry pioneers James Amos and BJ Emerson reveal their best-kept secrets:

  • “Tasti”-tested strategies for building a brand and growing a franchise
  • Social media tips for creating content your customers will love
  • Proven techniques for targeting Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials
  • Surefire ways to stay competitive in a media-driven marketplace
  • New online tools for engaging customers and opening communications
  • Anecdotal stories that promote awareness, transparency, and loyalty

In addition to the Tasti D-Lite story, you’ll find actionable steps and ideas for implementing and managing your brand presence within social networks. You’ll learn how to keep your people and platforms on their toes and ready to go when new technologies hit the market. You’ll learn why Google is your résumé, how to avoid “social negligence,” why you need to respond via Twitter, how to make the most of the almighty #hashtag, and how to stay ahead in the race for transparency.

The book also addresses hot trending topics such as privacy and transparency—so you can be sure that your customers are safe, secure, connected, and as passionate about your product as you are.

Remember: you can’t outsource relationships. This book shows you how to build relationships that really matter—and really pay off—The Tasti D-Lite Way.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780071799379
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/7/2012
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

James Amos is Chairman and CEO of Tasti D-Lite and Planet Smoothie. A leader in the franchising industry, he has been profiled in The Transparent Leader, Living an Uncommon Life, Above & Beyond, and The Entrepreneur’s Creed. Amos is the author of The Memorial, Focus or Failure: America at the Crossroads and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Franchising.

BJ Emerson is VP of Technology at Tasti D-Lite and Planet Smoothie. An awardwinning executive, social loyalty pioneer and author, he speaks regularly on the topics of social media, technology, and customer loyalty.

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Read an Excerpt

The Tasti D-Lite Way

Social Media Marketing Lessons for Building Loyalty and a Brand Customers Crave

By James Amos Jr., BJ Emerson

The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2013James Amos, Jr., and BJ Emerson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-179937-9



Introduction to a Tasti Story

The power of social media is it forces necessary change.

Erik Qualman, author, Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business

Tasti D-Lite's core product formulation was developed in 1987 in New York City in the Upper East Side kitchen of Celeste Carlesimo. Seeking to fulfill the changing dietary needs and tastes of New Yorkers, Celeste and her food scientist father Louis created this healthier dairy-based soft-serve version of ice cream that would eventually expand into an offering that would include over 100 flavors as well as line extensions for smoothies, shakes, and sundaes.

Without the butter fat content to properly categorize it as ice cream and no active cultures to call most of the flavors frozen yogurt, the "What is it?" question has always been a curiosity for those feeling the need for a formal classification. For those who have made the short journey from suspicion to obsession, "Tasti D" or simply "Tasti" has become sufficient. For them the question has become, "Where can I get more of it?" Capturing this sentiment online has been fascinating to watch.

Emerging from the first round of fro-yo wars in the late 1980s, robust organic growth through the 1990s, and the start of the new century found Tasti D-Lite being served in some 90 different outlets primarily in the New York City borough of Manhattan. As demand for the product grew, Tasti D-Lite was often bolted onto existing concepts and businesses with names such as Candy Club, Igloo Café, Frozen Monkey, and Sweet City. Most of the outlets at this point were licensed distributors of the product, and Tasti D-Lite could be found within candy shops, alongside magazine stands and even at the back of a furniture store.

The popularity of the frozen treat and signature blue cup became firmly rooted as a staple within Manhattan's culture and would ultimately overflow into television and other media. In 2004, several episodes of HBO's hit series Sex and the City featured unsolicited appearances of the product, which only spread the status and appeal to a wider audience, many members of which were a match for the shape conscious brand demographic. Mentions and appearances continued on shows like The Apprentice and 30 Rock as well as an appearance on the big screen in 2011 in the movie Our Idiot Brother starring Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks. Another unsolicited cameo in the NBC show 30 Rock came early in 2012 followed by appearances on the HBO series Girls. When stars like Tina Fey initiate these kinds of appearances, the mystique and appeal continues to validate and feed the interest in Tasti D-Lite.

Celebrity appeal aside, it's always been about the love of the product for the faithful. The deep affection found within the core customer base has resulted in remarkable word-of-mouth publicity which continues to drive brand awareness.

Embrace these fanatical customers on the web, and you've got yourself a story. This story.


In 2007, the Tasti D-Lite concept and formula were sold to the New York-based private equity group SPG Partners consisting of Ian Snow, Ogden Phipps, Sean Epps, with Jim Amos as operating partner, chairman, and CEO. Franchising would become the future of Tasti D-Lite with growth plans that included international expansion. A dream team of seasoned industry veterans was assembled. Members of this group have over 250 collective years of franchise experience. Most within this handpicked group had worked together for many years on other concepts. What existed of the small corporate office in New York was relocated to the unlikely city of Franklin, Tennessee, just south of Nashville, where the new Tasti D-Lite infrastructure and leadership began to take shape.

At the point that the concept was acquired, Tasti D-Lite found itself at a crossroads of brand renewal and transition just as social media was starting to hit critical mass. Without robust operational, marketing, technology, and distribution resources in the original business model, the shifting competitive environment and recession of 2008–2009 would soon have an impact on the original outlets in New York City. Putting these resources in place as soon as possible would be critical for not only sustaining but growing the concept.

Meanwhile, a facelift was in order for the 20-year-old aging brand, and a new logo, store design, website, and marketing standards were developed. Continuing to forge a new segment in the frozen dessert industry would mean staying relevant to the needs of the market.

With so many fans familiar with Tasti from time spent in New York, seeds of customers are still lying dormant around the world yearning for their beloved product. Maintaining connections with those both within and now outside the area would be essential for spreading the word later when it came time to launch into new markets, including those overseas.

In a July 2008 article titled "Tasti D-Lite Banks on Its Fanatical Fans for Growth," the Wall Street Journal reported it this way, "The chain's biggest challenge may be simply translating a distinctly New York phenomenon to the rest of the country and international markets."

Speed to market was imperative while simultaneously dealing with the massive influx of new fro-yo concepts moving in from the West Coast. At the same time, building an operational engine that would support new locations not only in other areas of the country but in other parts of the world could come only through franchising.

Chief operating officer Peter Holt has been leading the charge since the earliest days of the acquisition. He recalls the operating model at the time, "With so many points of distribution that existed when we acquired the company, what you had was a hundred different versions of what Tasti D-Lite was. Franchising was the most powerful vehicle to accelerate the growth and to develop the brand that so many were wanting to see expand. The standardized systems and infrastructure to support the concept outside of New York had to be put in place as quickly as possible to meet the demand." Continuing to develop the brand would start by having the right operating model.

Keeping the legacy alive while refreshing the brand image with some level of standardization would be the challenge. Also, fostering customer relationships through changing times and business models would be required to extend the vision and dream of what Tasti D-Lite was and what it could be.

Too Much History

Is it possible to have too much history and brand baggage? The multidecade experience of some Tasti customers has painted an interesting picture and perspective of the brand. Most recall the golden years of Tasti D-Lite as those early days of dominance in Manhattan where little competition existed and cult status reigned. But those years were not without controversy.

In 2002, concerns were raised about the accuracy of the nutritional claims of the product by the New York Times and later by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. The lack of corporate structure as well as little marketing and operational support for the chain made it vulnerable to such claims.

The issue was resolved with the Department of Consumer Affairs by the company implementing an aggressive compliance program with its licensees that focused on serving the customer the proper size (and not overportioning) and ensuring that the soft-serve machine was set up properly to deliver the product with correct density, which influences the caloric value of the product.

For many,

Excerpted from The Tasti D-Lite Way by James Amos Jr., BJ Emerson. Copyright © 2013 by James Amos, Jr., and BJ Emerson. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v

Prologue vii

Chapter 1 Introduction to a Tasti Story 1

Chapter 2 The Race for Transparency 23

Chapter 3 Going Behind the Brand 49

Chapter 4 Character in 140 Characters 69

Chapter 5 Don't Be Boring (and Other Thoughts on Relevance) 93

Chapter 6 You Can't Outsource Relationships 109

Chapter 7 Rolling with the Big Boys 123

Chapter 8 Brand Stewardship 145

Chapter 9 The Location Business 167

Chapter 10 Meet Your Cocreators 183

Chapter 11 The Social Future 195

Notes 211

Glossary 215

Index 219

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