Research 101

How a viral ice cream brand used market research to grow its audience beyond TikTok

A case study of how a brand used market research successfully to drive their business outcomes outside social media
Antarika Sen
May 12, 2023

It is no secret that social media platforms work wonders for brands, helping them reach new customers, build loyalty, and grow their business. And the proof is in the pudding, or should I say, ice cream in this case.

Little Moons, a London-based Japanese mochi ice cream brand, set TikTok ablaze in 2021, becoming one of UK's most coveted ice cream brands.

Thanks to viral posts and trends centered around trying their ice cream product, the hashtag #littlemoons has raked in close to half a billion views. As a result, their sales skyrocketed by a whopping ten-fold. Now that's a sweet taste of success.

Interest in the brand spilled over onto internet searches as well, with Google Trends data demonstrating a sharp increase in searches for the term "Little Moons" in January 2021.

While the brand experienced a remarkable surge in popularity, the logical question arose : What's the plan for sustaining growth beyond the temporary hype of social media trends?

Furthermore, Little Moons wanted to identify the specific consumer segment willing to consistently purchase their product at a retail price of around USD 6 per pack. That's a price that required serious dedication and love for the frozen treats.

Enter market research

This is where effective market research proved to be key to Little Moons' sustained growth and success beyond TikTok.

The brand collaborated with a market research firm and embarked on two exercises :

1. Consumer Profiling Exercise : Consumer profiling is a process of gathering and analysing data about the people who are most likely to be interested in a product. This data can include a detailed profile of their demographics, psychographics, consumer habits, and purchase intention of the product.

By understanding the target audience, brands can tailor products, experiences, and marketing campaigns that are more likely to appeal to them. The exercise often includes fielding quantitative surveys to a wide representative audience of the target market. It can also be complemented with qualitative interviews and focus groups.

2. Competitor Analysis: In their quest for growth, Little Moons also sought to identify which brands were they most closely competing against for the same slice of the market. Competitor research is a crucial analysis that allows a brand to keep track of its competitive landscape, what consumers of competitors look for in a product, and how your product/brand is perceived to make informed strategic decisions and stay ahead in the game.

What Little Moons learnt from market research was fascinating

The insights they gained from their market research studies proved to be fascinating.

If they had solely relied on the learnings from social media platforms such as TikTok, they would have been led to believe that their target audience comprised mainly young women in their late teens or early twenties.

This is no surprise because the reach via social media platforms can be limiting.

The ratio of male to female on TikTok is stark: women account for 66% of all TikTok users in the UK, as opposed to only 33% of men.

In 2021 (when Little Moons became viral), close to 30% of TikTok influencers' audiences were women aged 18-24, and 13-17 year old women were the second largest demographic (Source : Statista).

A graph showing the gender and age distribution of TikTok users in the UK.
Source : Statista and Smart home fox

However, conducting a consumer profiling market research study revealed a different reality. 

Market research identified that the primary consumer group driving the majority of sales for premium ice cream category products, like Little Moons, were affluent consumers aged 30 years and above, who possessed the financial means to regularly indulge in high-end products like Little Moons. 

Little Moons realised that in order to turn the TikTok trend into the long-term business success they wanted, they would need to reach people who were not on the platform. This included affluent shoppers who were older and might not use TikTok.

Converting market research learnings into successful marketing strategy

The learnings from market research that customers acquired through TikTok were not expected to contribute to long-term sales and sustained growth influenced Little Moons to rethink their marketing strategy.

Instead of focussing on TikTok, they doubled down on publishing features on media platforms like the Telegraph or The Express or The Sun so that it would reach their actual target audience and keep the cultural conversation and interest in their product alive outside of TikTok.

Consumer profiling surveys not only help you make sure your marketing is reaching your ideal customer, it also helps you identify what kind of advertising messages resonate with them. After all, what you say also matters as much as where and how you say it.

The business impact

This change in strategy led to some incredible impact. The press coverage tailored to the new target audience led to a significant increase in some of their key brand metrics. Using market research tools such as Brand Tracking Surveys, Little Moon learnt that that aided awareness of their brand had tripled and consideration for purchase grew by almost 50%. Doubling down on their marketing campaigns to reach the wider audience also led to increase in sales by 1000%.

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Key takeaways

  • Social media platforms can be a great way to reach new customers and build brand awareness, but they should not be the only source of data that brands rely on when making strategic decisions.
  • Market research can be a valuable complementary tool for brands that want to understand their target audience and sustain their growth beyond the temporary hype of social media trends.
  • Little Moons' target audience was not solely women in their teens and early 20s, as TikTok suggested, but rather affluent consumers aged 30 and above as revealed by Consumer Profiling market research studies. This expanded Little Moons' addressable market and allowed them to tap into long-term growth opportunities
  • By conducting market research, brands can gain a deeper understanding of their target audience and develop marketing strategies that are more likely to be successful. They doubled down on their marketing campaigns to reach the wider audience. This led to increase in sales by 1000%
  • Brand tracking surveys helped Little Moons monitor their performance beyond sales, showing increased brand awareness and consideration to purchase.

We hope this was useful in learning more about how market research can be used effectively to drive your brand to greater heights.

If you have questions on how market research can help your product or brand, feel free to reach out to

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