Dolly Parton is an amazing woman. Not only is she one of the most iconic, down-to-earth country singers of all time, but she’s just about as delightful as they come. For most of us, Dolly is the kind of person you wish you could have over for dinner, or some cake and ice cream on your porch on a summer day. So the next best thing must be to make some cake that has Dolly’s face on the box, and eat some ice cream that she helped create! Last year, Duncan Hines came out with a line of Dolly Parton cake mixes in two flavors, and Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream created a limited-run strawberry pretzel pie ice cream, which sold out in a matter of minutes. You know I love a good licensing deal or a strategic partnership between an individual and a product or brand that makes sense to that individual’s personal brand, so I’m a little stumped by these two, and I’ll tell you why.
Nothing about Dolly or her incredible career has ever, at any time, included cake. I don’t ever recall a famous song of hers about her love of baked goods. I don’t recall seeing videos of her on the Food Network or with some famous chef, sharing recipes. I don’t recall any cookbooks or interviews where Dolly talked about her love of baking. So this collaboration seems like just a gimmicky money maker that doesn’t do anything to add value to Dolly’s personal brand. Yes, the box design is gosh darned cute, and, yes, who doesn’t want Dolly in their kitchen? But this seems pretty off brand to me.
The same rationale applies to ice cream, only this time, I think there’s a SWEET reason for Dolly doing this collaboration with Jeni’s – besides the obvious reason that owner Jeni Britton Bauer is a female entrepreneur like Dolly who built an empire from a very humble beginning. Proceeds will benefit Dolly’s Imagination Library charity, which provides free books to children. But beyond this, I’ve never seen Dolly talk about her love of ice cream, so this food angle also seems a bit off brand to me.
We all love cake and ice cream, so there is no harm in partnering with brands whose products you enjoy, but when there really isn’t a strong connective thread between those products and who you are and what you do, then I have to wonder what the value is. Yes, money is a value, and even better, donating to charities are great, but a music school for kids or even a line of clothing that matches Dolly’s unique style seem far more on brand than cake and ice cream.